That got me to thinking. What regrets do people express as they near the end of life, and what actions can we take now so we don’t have similar regrets?
In her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware shared the most common regrets she heard from her patients.
With 2013 approaching, the regrets Ware identifies offer food for thought to those of us in the second half of life as we take yet another fresh stab at setting down our New Year’s resolutions.
Below are the top regrets and resolutions to remedy them.
Regret No. 1: The most common regret of all dealt with not having the courage to live an authentic life and having many long-held dreams go unfulfilled.
Resolution: Assess yourself. Living an authentic life isn’t about chasing every dream we may have. It involves building self-awareness—of our values, strengths and personal motivations.
Arrange your work or personal time (or both) to follow the dreams that really matter.
Regret No. 2: Most people wished they hadn’t worked so hard, missing their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
Resolution: Find work that works for you. An ancient proverb says, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Let go of career expectations that may have been a driving force in the first half of your life and be open to new possibilities that align with your current values, skills, lifestyle and passion.
Regret No. 3: Most people wish they’d had the courage to express their feelings but often suppressed them in order to keep peace with others.
Resolution: Care enough to confront. Expressing one’s feelings is different than expressing a belief or a judgment. Letting your feelings out in a positive way can enhance your well-being and can benefit others as they understand you on a deeper level.
Regret No. 4: Most people wished they had stayed in touch with old friends.
Resolution: Invest in the relationship dividend. The quality of our relationships become even more important in the second half of life. Finding ways to connect or reconnect with friends can be healing, loving and life-affirming.
Regret No. 5: Most people wished they had let themselves be happier. Many people did not realize till the end that happiness is a choice.
Resolution: Choose to be happy. Emotions and thoughts have a powerful influence on our ability to be happy. Make a resolution to practice gratitude, fun and positivity. These are three of the building blocks to successful aging and leave us open to experiencing the joy and happiness that life has to offer.
If you are looking for a practical guide to jump-start your New Year’s resolutions, “Live Smart After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Life Planning for Uncertain Times” by the Life Planning Network offers advice, tools and inspiration to create smart resolutions for the second half of life.
In addition to the collective wisdom of 33 experts in life planning and positive aging, the book has fresh ideas to help you plan for a longer, happier, healthier and more productive life.