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5 Sad Truths About Success and Happiness

Even as medical science and quality of life continues to increase our life spans, it seems as though many of us are not really living the life we’re given.

Too often we are caught in the “busy” trap, running, running, running—but never getting much of anywhere.
But how would you live differently if you knew you were going to die?

Finding true success and happiness. Not to be maudlin, but we all are going to die—sooner or later. And while death is something we humans pretty universally fear, thinking about our own demise can actually spur us to live more fully.

In surveys of people who know they are going to die, the regrets are almost never “I wish I had worked more,” or even “I wish I had made more money.” More often they are about success and happiness in their truest forms.

I chose these five common regrets from a book called, aptly, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, by Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse in Australia who routinely asked her patients about their regrets and recorded them on her blog.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

So often we make decisions in our life based on what others want or believe. You got a particular university degree because it’s what your father wanted. You took a certain job because you wanted to make more money to support your family. You didn’t pursue your dreams because someone told you they were foolish.
But what would happen if you lived a life that was true to yourself, and no one else? How would you dress? Where would you work? How would you live? Who would you spend your time with? What would you do if you weren’t afraid of what others would think?

Although there are certainly constraints on all of us, the closer we can come to living that true life, the happier we will be.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Ware reported that she heard this from almost every single one of her male patients. We often think we have to work 40, 60, 80 hours a week because it’s expected, because we want the promotion or the raise, but is it worth it?

If you were truly honest with yourself, which would be more important: working hard to earn all that money, or having a different lifestyle? With even a few conscious choices, you can tweak your lifestyle to make it possible.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

How often do you bite your tongue to keep the peace? We’re told, “Don’t get so emotional about it,” or “Don’t let your emotions rule you,” but our emotions are our own personal truth. No one can deny how you feel about something.
We cannot control how other people react to us, but we can control how we react. Does that mean you should break down crying in your next board meeting? Maybe not. But if you can take your emotions and channel them into positive change, a productive conversation with someone, or even a lifestyle shift, your emotions—even negative ones—can have a vast positive impact on your life.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

It’s easy to let personal relationships slide (especially if we’re working too much, as in No. 2), but personal connections are what give life meaning—not reports and promotions and pay raises. Not television and video games and all the other time sucks of modern day life.

Who could you reach out to today? Who could you call, or write, or text (if you must) and let them know you’re thinking of them? How would it make you feel? And how would it make them feel? It’s pretty much a no-lose situation.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

There’s so much wisdom tied up in that little statement. Happiness, it turns out, doesn’t have that much to do with the car you drive or the job you have or even the person you spend your life with. Happiness is actually a choice.

It’s the difference between seeing an unexpected event as a setback or an adventure; the difference between being frustrated by a delay or relishing the time alone; the difference between resenting someone for who they aren’t and loving them for who they are.

We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of those who have gone before us. Our happiness, our success, nearly every detail of our lives comes down to choice, and we can choose to live the way we truly want to live, or spend our final days regretting the choices we didn’t make.

I hope that these somber truths help inspire you to make the choices you won’t regret. I have always tried to take the loss of my father when I was a teenager and the loss of my mum when I was a young man as important reminders to not leave happiness for a later date, but make the choices that lead to true success and happiness today.
How can the regrets of the dying help inspire your choices about the way you live your life today? I’d love to hear what you think. Please share your thoughts…

Post by: Bernard Marr

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