As you set plans and goals for this year, perhaps you seek inspiration about the kind of life you hope to live—one filled with passion and purpose. Let’s hope that life includes a life with awesome relationships to boot.
A palliative care nurse named Bronnie Ware recently wrote about the top five regrets people make on their deathbeds. (See her post here.) They are keen reminders of what’s important, and they have great applications to marriage.
- “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected.” Bronnie says this was the most common regret. Have you been honest with yourself about the life you want to lead and the dreams you want to pursue? Talk to your spouse about these dreams, including your dreams for your marriage and family life. Live out your personal values, not those of the culture around you. For example, if travel is important to you, figure out how to scale back your lifestyle to provide more funds and time for adventures, or look for a job abroad so you can travel while getting paid. Follow your dreams while you are still healthy enough to do so.
- “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” Bronnie says all the older men spoke of missing their children’s youth, and men and women also talked of missing their partner’s companionship due to work. We often fall into the trap that work is what we have to do, and family life gets squeezed into the space that is left. But Bronnie suggests, “By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do…you become happier and more open to new opportunities.
I would add that in addition to simplifying, learning to say no to some things (or even most things) opens doors for the important things. I watched a short interview today by John Acuff (while I was “wasting time” on Facebook) in which he explains why it’s important to let some people down in order to not let down the important ones in our lives. If you don’t have time to pursue all the great things you want to in live, I strongly encourage you to watch it on ABC News.
- “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” The way to have true and meaningful relationships is to be ourselves.
- “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Married and single people can benefit greatly by keeping strong friendships. Research says social interactions increase our happiness and longevity. Caroline says many of the dying didn’t realize the value in their friendships until their dying weeks when the friendships were lost. What friendships are important for you to cultivate? How do you invest your time and energy into these relationships? All that remains in the final weeks is love and relationships, says Caroline.
- “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” While she explains many people on their deathbeds realized too late that happiness was a choice, I think that is equally true for marriage. We can focus on our partner’s great qualities or the things that annoy us. We can think about unmet needs or express gratitude for what we receive in love. We can choose to be happy together, or we can focus on the imperfections that are always a part of human life and love.
What are the choices you are making with your time and your attitude this year? I’ve always thought regrets are the worst possible emotion. What do you hope to feel as you look back on your life, and what are the regrets you hope to avoid?
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Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.