If you were lying on your death bed right now and reflecting on your life, would you regret the things you did, or the things you didn’t do?
There are those of course who would say that you did exactly what you were meant to to, so in fact it’s all about perception, but just for a moment let’s examine this question in the context of a theory that you do have the power to design your own life, the way you want it to be.
We all have in us a quirky brain function known as the ‘Reticular Activating System’ (RAS). You may have heard of it, but just in case you haven’t, it’s the what filters the information you receive and decides which bits are important enough for you to focus on.
In the book, ‘The Leadership Brain For Dummies‘ by Marilee B. Sprenger, she states that, “For survival’s sake, your RAS responds to your name, anything that threatens your survival, and information that you need immediately.” She goes on to explain that, “The RAS also responds to novelty. You notice anything new and different.” So, for example, when you are thinking of buying a particular type of car, you will suddenly notice that car popping up all over the place. The cars were always there among the crowd of other cars on the roads, but suddenly you see them because your sub-conscious mind is pushing them up to the forefront of your conscious mind and tagging them as important.
When I was renovating a bathroom at my old tourism establishment, for a brief while there I was focused on bathroom tiles. Everywhere I went, I found myself noticing bathroom tiles – even when I went to the gents after a movie at the cinema! I remember asking myself, “Are you losing the plot here? Enough with the bathroom tiles!”
Recently, I just finished writing a book, entitled ‘If Life’s Worth Doing It’s Worth Doing Well’ with the sub-title of ‘Finding Sane Fulfillment in an Insane World’. As the name suggests, it’s about making the most of your life while you can.
Therefore it should come as no surprise to me that my RAS keeps popping up references to this theme, so today on Facebook an old friend, Brett Kibblewhite shared a fascinating article by Sina Anvari.
The article is called, ‘Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed’
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.
I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness
I’m reminded of a song here, cheesy though this may seem! Here are the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s great hit, ‘My Way”, written by Jacques Revaux, Claude Francois, Gilles Thibaut and Paul Anka.
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do , I saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
And through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,
“Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way”
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
The right to say the things he feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!
My RAS also helps me to harness the Laws of Attraction to bring me opportunities to achieve the goals I have set for myself. That all begins with thinking about what you want out of your life and what is most important to you, then formulating plans to make your dreams come true.
If you’d like to pre-order a copy of my book, you can read more about this topic.
If you’d like some business advice on how to set up your business so you can live more of the life you’d like, then check out my business site at Club Red Inspiration.
So that’s all from me for now. Until next time, “Seize the day!”