It is interesting to realize that regardless of ones gender, socioeconomic, cultural, religious affiliation or identification, the common themes reveal that dying, and conversely living are really up to the individual and their personal philosophy. I firmly believe that if we can take something from these themes, we will be further along into living a real life, which ultimately is the aim of SELFCARE and perhaps consistent for anyone that is interested in bringing meaning into their lives.
Here is a brief list as originally reported:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Let’s consider each of these topics as both reported and from a SELFCARE point of view.
I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Here, there are a few things worth recognizing. First of all, it is the most common regret among the 5 listed. Secondly and worthy of note is that it refers to dreams one has, and not necessarily accomplishment. One would think that it would come down to accomplishments, which may be true for some, but aren’t all accomplishments not dreams to begin with? Third, it is really about what a person desired for themselves which haunts them, not what others desired for them that brings about this regret. In the original article, the author indicates the significance of health in terms of freedom. It seems therefore that good health is something we can control which influences our ability to dream and accept with courage the possibility that we can realize our personal dreams.
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
If there were a theme that divided the genders more than anything in particular, it would be this regret. Supposedly, every male patient suffered this regret. One common success factor that is attributed to people that succeed in life is doing what you love. I personally believe this to be true. When I found myself professionally not doing what I loved, the affects of it were frustration which inevitably caused depression and other negative emotions. When I think about this particular regret, it would seem that doing what you love actually kills 2 birds with one stone:
1. Doing what you love hardly feels like work, and,
2. When you are in love with your work, the satisfaction and power of this love carries over into other important areas, especially relationships.
For the sake of argument, consider how doing what you love and feeling good about it would influence the nature of your personal relationships and satisfactions in life. Consider also how you would better handle challenges such as negative behavior and situations if you loved your life. In all likelihood, negative consequences would have less of an impact and you would weather the storms far better if this was your way. Bear in mind that loving what you do as a career or job isn’t necessarily the objective. You could very well find a hobby or a personal passion outside of your primary source of income to do what you love which in total makes life and hard work more satisfying.
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
This one has to do with resentments and carrying them forward throughout life until the very end. It seems from this admission that holding feelings back was not limited to negative feelings, but also those that are positive and left unsaid. It takes courage to express your feelings because of the emotional risks involved. Most of the time, people hold back because of fear of rejection, but these sentiments may also be held back for its positive implications; meaning you actually do get what you want but don’t feel worthy of it. What is it exactly that causes us to hold back and keep from expressing how we truly feel? Perhaps it would be impolite from a social etiquette point of view, as in, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” No offense to anyone from certain religious persuasions, but is this aphorism actually part of holy scriptures, or is it a common idea that has been advanced as religious dogma? From a SELFCARE standpoint, it takes courage to actually express yourself in terms of how you relate to others. Perhaps if you expressed your feelings and found out that they are not reciprocated you would know it is time to move on and you would not face the regret of leaving things unresolved. Perhaps its also possible that you would understand yourself far better once feedback comes to you which better prepares you to eventually receive the object of your desires by ruling out situations that will not work. Either way, its immensely important to be aware of your feelings in the first place and secondly, to put some thought into how you can best express them. For instance, if someone has upset me, I need not react with the same attitude, but I can protest the behavior in a more mature way and still express myself. Self control is the defining difference which still allows you to express yourself.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
In the original article, the point was that it was hard to connect with old friends and track them down towards the last moments where it mattered most. These golden friendships were never given the time and effort required to keep them going and so friends were not around as a source of comfort. This is a tricky point for several reasons. Why weren’t these relationships maintained in the first place? Was it due to the possibility that a person lost track of themselves in the course of life and lost the connection due to fewer things in common to sustain the friendship in the first place, or was it circumstantial? If the first case, it would be important to realize that it takes effort to find things in common with people that we grow up with and find ourselves growing apart. In the second case, circumstantial differences such as unresolved conflicts or grudges, moving or getting immersed into a job or ones personal family are all understandable, but does not change the fact that we miss people that know the original person we started out as being. The important things to consider are the fact that our dearest friendships are those where the people give us the freedom to be ourselves, and show us the attention and affection that makes friendships worthwhile. Despite the many moves, international work with travel and hectic job responsibilities along with raising a family, it is entirely possible to keep in touch with friends that make a difference in our lives. Social media, mobile technology and email make it entirely possible to stay connected, but more importantly, it is up to us to actively find things in common with those that we care about to keep the connection going. It takes effort and a willingness to be a good friend to deserve one.
I wish that I had let myself be happier
According to the original post, happiness is a choice. It may be a choice, but my question is, if that happiness is not genuine, is it sustainable? Furthermore, people supposedly lied to themselves and others in thinking that contentment was the same as happiness. What in fact they longed for was laughter and silliness to make them feel good. Perhaps this is why we miss our old friends because they allowed us to laugh and be silly. In my own personal case, the friends that have stayed with me throughout life are the ones with whom I could always laugh and make laugh. Perhaps this is more important than pining for old relationships. I would argue that if you have the ability to laugh within yourself, you will always be surrounded by friends. Who doesn’t want to laugh? Is it really only old friends that make it possible to laugh or is it up to us to find the humor from our own ridiculous ways of being and the situations we find in common with others? Perhaps what we miss most of all with old friends are old memories that take us back to times that were enjoyable and for that reason alone, its important to stay in touch. Back to my original question, it is not possible to sustain happiness unless we find genuine ways to be happy whether or not it is a choice. It still comes down to the individual in question, not the people or situations around us from a SELFCARE perspective.
The 5 Joys of the Living
If we take the account of the 5 Regrets of the Dying, they fit perfectly with the ideas of SELFCARE and its ultimate significance of applying its principles. Briefly, here are the principal (or principle) parts of CARE in terms of how to address the regrets:
1. Courage: Applying courage means being authentic to ourselves and others so we do not live a false life but most importantly, having the Courage to take the emotional risk of failure, rejection or loss because no risk, no reward
2. Appreciation: Appreciation means you raise the value of ourselves and those around us, including things such as property entrusted to you and most of all, appreciating the use of your time towards what matters.
3. Respect: You must respect your needs and the needs of others regardless of how you view the rules as being valid, reasonable or logical – in the end, none of those judgments matter
4. Effort: Instead of living a passive life that belongs to someone else, make the effort to observe the 5 Regrets of the dying everyday and choose instead to be alive and enjoy life actively by making the most of it every single day
Practicing CARE enables on to realize the ultimate objective of:
5. Achieving Peace of Mind: which depends on living a life of being and doing your best and thereby living without regrets as a daily practice.
The Joy of Living is being conscious and actively driving your life, while also being mindful of the consequences of being asleep and letting life pass you by. The shift that is required is critical and certainly within your control. I encourage you to first go through the SELF assessment as described in the article on SELFCARE to recognize what inspires you, and identifying a way of life that actually fits within the context of your current availability by taking ownership of your time by visiting the article on Time Management. If fears are keeping you from taking the necessary steps forward, please read the article on Self Esteem to understand how to eliminate issues that keep you from moving ahead and taking ownership of your life.