I think most of us can recall FDR’s famous quote “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But his less well known quote is “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”
This resonates with me because coaching new retirees always involves hearing about their “doubts of today.” And sadly, these fears and uncertainties will often lead to their “regrets of tomorrow.” If, however, they could overcome their present doubts they would likely find their future lives to be much more fulfilled.
Most of us would agree that at the end of our life we’d like to go back and re-do a few things that could have been changed – maybe spend less time at the office to make more time for ourselves and our families, taken our studies more seriously, made better career choices, etc.
And while these are important considerations, these are not the main reflections of those at the end of their lives. According to palliative expert Bonnie Ware, the top five regrets of the dying are:
1. I wish I’d lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier.
And I’d like to add that Nadine Stair on her 84th birthday said, “I wish I had waded in more mud puddles”.
Living with no regrets places the responsibility upon us, not just to decide what we want out of life but to then go and live it. Since we have a finite timetable for life, why not decide today what risks we are willing to take and then begin the process of taking them. Why not reframe our current fears and self-doubts into a more positive and optimistic outlook for the future.
So will we answer this question for ourselves, or will we let others answer it for us? Will we act out of fear or out of courage? If we decide to go for it, what will It be? What do we want the rest of our life to look and feel like?
Now would be a good time to answer these questions. The choice is ours . . . to be able to look back one day at our life without any regrets at all!