Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
None of us have a crystal ball that can tell us how to live our lives now to ensure we don’t look back with regret later. That being said, knowing what others have regretted when reaching the end of their lives can be food for thought and a prompt to consider success in a different way. In my May blog, I asked you what success meant to you and recommended that you start with the end in mind, addressing two of Bronnie Ware’s ‘Top 5 regrets of the dying’. This month, I’m focusing on the other 3. These include:
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
- I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends
- I wish I had let myself be happier
Reflecting on and addressing these potential regrets can help us to create a pathway to success, where success is related to living a life that we can be happy with when we look back on it. Let’s look at these in turn:
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Why do you think people wish they had had the courage to express their feelings more when at the end of their life?It’s likely that in some cases, people have submerged their feelings to avoid conflict and to keep the peace, or to avoid judgement, or rejection. This can build up resentment, create unhealthy relationships, mean that an individual does not act as they would wish to, and ultimately mean that an individual is not being fully themselves. If you recognise this in yourself at work, what might it be costing you? How could you broach an issue in a safe way while saying how you feel?
In other cases, it can be positive feelings that are not being voiced. While for many of those with this regret the situation would likely be in relation to telling their nearest and dearest more often what they meant to them, it can be also just taking time to appreciate others in all aspects of life, including work. Showing gratitude for work well done or for someone helping you out has benefits for them and for you. Research studies show that showing gratitude improves physical and psychological health, enhances empathy, reduces aggression, and improves self-esteem.
To ensure honest relationships that are healthy for you, ask yourself the following questions and reflect on what they tell you?: ‘Am I expressing my feelings as fully as I would like? If not, why not? What impact is it having on me? On others?’ What could I do to ensure a positive impact? What’s my first step?
I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
‘Is this relevant at work’ you may be asking? For many people it is. Given how many hours of our lives are spent at work, it is not surprising that many strong friendships start there. Perhaps it is also not surprising that towards the end of life we become less focused on what we have achieved and more focused on the people in our lives.Are you making time for connection at work rather than just transactional interactions? Is eating your lunch at your desk the norm rather than the exception?
Next time a friend at work asks if you would like to join them for lunch or a coffee and you decide you need to get on with your work, it might be worth considering that you will likely not remember what you were working on a year from now but that your friendship could be important to you for some time to come.
I wish I had let myself be happier.
What does ‘I wish I had let myself be happier’ mean? Aren’t we either happy or not based on our circumstances? How can we let ourselves be happier? This depends on us realising that, to a degree, happiness is a choice. Research in positive psychology shows that about 40% of our happiness is within our control. If that’s the case then it is worth considering ways to be happier or to at least choose an attitude that helps us make our life a positive experience.As psychologist William James said, “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.” If this seems alien to you, try to shift your perspective by reflecting on the following two questions:
(a) “What am I assuming that is stopping me from being happy?”
(b) “What could I credibly assume instead?” You’ll find more ideas on happiness in my previous blog ‘The Happy Leader – how to raise your levels of happiness’.
None of us can be sure where the choices we make will lead us. We make those choices to the best of our ability with the data and knowledge we have to hand. Considering what others have learned over their lives can help. What choices might you make now in relation to expressing your feelings, keeping in touch with friends, or letting yourself be happier? What does that look like day to day? What does success look like to you? For me, it is based on 4 words – health, happiness, growth and gratitude and I use these informally as my score card. I’d love to know what sums up success for you.