If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know I’m not a real Debbie Downer. But today’s post is a little more serious. It’s about dying with regrets. In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, nurse Bronnie Ware discovered that the regrets of the dying boil down to five general attitudes. Over the next few posts I’d like to explore their regrets with you, in hopes that we all can avoid them.
This week I want to focus on just one—the Number 1 regret of the dying…
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
As a chronic people-pleaser, this regret hits uncomfortably close to home. How many times have I stifled my dreams, goals and even my identity in order to comply with others? How many times have I yielded to the beliefs and expectations of people around me—instead of pursuing the things that would have brought me the greatest fulfillment.
Here’s some of the “expectations” that I wrestled with for quite some time:
“Starting your own business in this economy is not a good idea. It’s better to stick with a job at a bigger, more stable corporation.”
“This is the way it’s always been done.”
“If you can’t do something perfectly the first time, why try it at all?”
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized something quite profound. The people with expectations of you are not living your life. Deep, right?
But seriously, if I had always yielded to the expectations of others, I would have missed out on the best experiences I’ve had in this life so far!
- Falling in love with my bride Tina.
- Starting my own company
- Writing two books (and working on a third!)
- Owning up to the fact that I hate eating green things.
In every one of the situations I mentioned, I’ve had some opposition. Sometimes people are jealous of your own dreams and ambitions. Even more often, they are afraid of change. Expect it. Better yet, embrace it! After all, the people you believe are putting down your ideas might actually be some of your greatest allies in your success. Consider their critiques. Let them force you to reexamine your dreams and your plans so that you can refine them and make them even better. I talk about this for an entire chapter in my book Leadership Redefined.
In Ware’s book, she notes that, “Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.” Don’t let the expectations of others hold you back—because one day your body will. Let go of people-pleasing today, and die without regrets.