First Things First

A Holiday Without Regrets

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  And depending on how you look at it, this time of year can be filled with joy–or it can be filled with tremendous stress and regrets.  Whether you decide to do what you’ve always done or leap into unchartered territory, a different approach could be a very good thing.  It all boils down to perspective.

For those who face an uphill battle, it may help to change the conversation.

While working for many years as a palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware learned some very important lessons that transformed her life.  Her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, highlights five regrets and lessons learned that are pertinent to everyone this holiday season.

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

Most people had not honored even half of their dreams and died knowing it was due to choices they had or had not made. 

Lesson learned: It is very important to try to honor at least some of your dreams.

2.  “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” 

This came from every male patient. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. The men she cared for deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the work treadmill.

Lesson learned: Simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices can create more space for those things that matter most to you. It also enables you to be more open to new opportunities–ones that are more suited to your new lifestyle.

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

In order to keep the peace, many people kept their feelings to themselves. They settled and never reached their potential. Ware shared that many developed illnesses because of the bitterness and resentment they carried. 

Lesson learned: You cannot control the reactions of others, but you can change how you engage them.  Speaking honestly can raise relationships to a whole new and healthier level.  Or, it can release unhealthy relationships from your life.

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

Often, people did not realize the value of long-term friendships until it was too late.  Many had deep regrets about not giving friendships more time and effort. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

Lesson learned: It is common for busy people to let friendships slip. But when death approaches, the physical details of life fall away. Money or status no longer has true importance for them. At this point, their concerns are for loved ones.  Sadly, they are often too ill and weary to manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships.

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

Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. Fear of change had them pretend to themselves and others that they were content. Deep within, they longed to laugh and have silliness in their life again.

Lesson learned: At journey’s end, what others think of you is far from your mind. There’s beauty in being able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Take time now to decide what really matters as you gather with friends and family.  When it’s all said and done, people won’t remember if your house was spotless, the dinner was perfectly cooked or how your house was decorated.  They will remember the conversation, the laughter and the time together.  Being intentional, wise and honest with your choices could lead to unexpected blessings this holiday season.

For more resources on relationships and holidays, click here.

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