Karl Pillemer is an American gerontologist who studies the changes people experience as they age. Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who cares for people in the last few weeks of their lives. They both realized they were sitting on a gold mine of knowledge that could be learned from people who have gone before and experienced it all. They each took a bit different approach to mine this wealth of elderly advice, but the results from each of their studies are incredibly valuable.
Karl asked more than 1,200 seniors, “Over the course of your life, what are the most important lessons you would like to pass on to younger people?” From those responses he wrote his book, 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. Here are the top ten responses that emerged:
- Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones.
- Act now like you will need your body for 100 years.
- Take a risk and a leap of faith when opportunity knocks.
- Choose a mate with extreme care.
- Travel more.
- Don’t wait to say words that need to be said, such as “I’m sorry,” “Thank you,” “I love you.”
- Time is of the essence: Live as though life is short—because it is.
- Happiness is a choice, not a condition.
- Time spent worrying is time wasted: Stop worrying.
- When it comes to making the most of your life, think small. Savor the simple daily pleasures.
Bronnie interviewed her patients and asked them what they regretted most about their lives. The most common responses she received, which she expounds on in her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, were,
- “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
- “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
- “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
- “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
- “I wish I had let myself be happier.”
These responses are worth pondering deeply.
Principle: Make the Most of Your Life—Live So That You Will Never Have Regrets
No one wants to lay in their deathbed plagued by all the things they wish they had done, said, and experienced. Yet sadly, we all live as if we have forever. We run from the inevitable reality that we’re going to die and fill our time with avoidant work, petty distractions, and meaningless entertainment. Death is non-negotiable but the quality of your life is negotiable. How you live it and whom you spend it with is negotiable. Make your stand now. Make a declaration as to the quality of your life.
The 5 Day Weekend lifestyle is about replacing all these with important contributions, purposeful adventure, and meaningful service. It should be wild, unpredictable with the operating methodology of taking calculated risks. It’s your private undertaking, a spiritual journey and an act of rebirth.
In my next post, I will offer you some suggestions for things you can do to avoid regret in your life, and to find the freedom of peace in your life.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these “end-of-life” insights into what’s important for each of us. Which of these spoke most directly to you? Thank you for sharing.
Secure your copy of the “5 Day Weekend” book. 5 Day Weekend: Freedom to Make Your Life and Work Rich with Purpose [Nik Halik & Garrett Gunderson]