Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Yikes! Sorry for the somber title, but in this festive season it seems appropriate to think about how to stay happy and without regret in your life. As Stephen Covey said, “Start with the end in mind.”

Bronnie Ware has worked extensively with the dying, and here is her list of their top five regrets:

  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.
I think this list is powerful for anyone, but it’s particularly powerful for leaders and entrepreneurs. It’s really easy to get so caught up in achieving our goals that we forget that the most important goal is to live a happy life that isn’t filled with regret.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you working so hard at pleasing your supervisor or your clients that you’re not pleasing yourself too?
  2. Are you “working hard” rather than “working smart?”
  3. Do you think that expressing your feelings appropriately in a business setting is a sign of weakness?
  4. Are you taking the time to stay in touch with the people in your life that make you feel good about yourself and that make your life meaningful?
  5. Are you telling yourself that money and achievement are more important than people and happiness?

Of course it’s all about balance, both as a leader and as a person. Money may not make you happy, but being poor certainly will make you unhappy. Achievement may not be the royal road to happiness either, but not doing anything meaningful and fulfilling will certainly make you question whether it’s worth getting up in the morning.

Give some thought to what really makes you happy, and then go do that. Remember the words of Joseph Campbell, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” So go be who you really are. Why settle for less?

High-performance habits
  1. Know what makes you happy, and do those things.
  2. Don’t confuse money and happiness.
  3. Surround yourself with people who support your happiness, both in your personal and business lives.
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