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Take your brain to another dimension (pay close attention)

Thinking about what it might be like to face death is something that a lot of people might avoid. However, by taking your mind to that dimension, paying attention and thinking about what it would be like, you might be enlightened by what you see. When I read an article about the top 5 regrets of the dying – based on the work of Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse – it really struck a chord with me. The reason for this is quite simple. I don’t want to be saying these things or thinking these things when I die. Presumably I’m not the only one either, which is why her work became something of a phenomenon (not the LL Cool J song!).

Why is it that at the end of life, people have the bittersweet luxury of having so much clarity? The answer is simple – because at the end of life, there is no anxiety as a result of having choice. You don’t have those sliding door moments that can change your life forever. You no longer have the endless stream of thoughts about what you should or shouldn’t do. They are all gone. All you have is reflection and hindsight.

There are two things that we can learn from this. Firstly, that anxiety and our thoughts fill our minds with clutter. They also bring about some horrible physical symptoms that we interpret as meaning something is wrong or something bad is going to happen. Clearing our mind of these thoughts can help us to make the right decisions. Secondly, we can learn so much from reflection. Reflecting on our experiences in life can help us to learn from them and make better decisions for the future.

This blog is to pay homage to those people who were involved in the work of Bronnie Ware. I wanted to turn all the regrets of the dying into how to: resolutions for the living.

Actually living out the resolutions is very hard, after all, if it was easy then more people would do it wouldn’t they. Despite that, I’m sure it’s a damn site better than having the regret that you didn’t try when you had the chance.

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

Resolution 1. Be yourself and embrace that.

How to: Don’t fear change. If you want something, take a deep breath and go for it. Be thankful that you have the freedom and health at this moment in time to choose and be brave enough to follow your ambitions and desires. I’m not saying “as long as I’m alright Jack, sod the rest!” but what I am saying is that there are ways of doing things and if you’re not happy with yourself or your life at this moment in time, you can change it. Now. In fact, if you do, it’s likely that those around you will ultimately be happier and more fulfilled too.

Regret 2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Resolution 2. Get off the hamster wheel.

How to: Be more productive by doing something that feels counterproductive. Slow down. I can hear my friends and family laugh as I write this – slowing down is not my strong point! However, think about what you’re doing and why (I’m trying to). Try not to waste time and try to practice regular mindfulness. Money doesn’t bring happiness but it is necessary for most and work can bring meaning, purpose and autonomy – all of which are important for well being. So try to strike a balance. When you work, work hard and when you’re with family or doing hobbies, try to mentally ‘be there’ and not away in your thoughts about doing something else.

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

Resolution 3. Spit it out will you!

How to: So many people suppress their feelings. They do this for lots of reasons. Worry about what people will think, fear of rejection, not wanting to hurt people, not knowing how to manage their own feelings and a belief that they are doing the right thing by others, to name just a few. The sad thing is that ultimately by doing this, you end up living a half hearted life. This effects not only you but has a ripple effect throughout your relationships and families. Taking the steps to be honest with yourself and with those around you is so hard but in the long run it can lead to a whole hearted and much happier, fuller existence for everyone involved.

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

Resolution 4. Don’t let go.

How to: This one is slightly easier to do nowadays with so many ways to keep in touch through social media. However, don’t put things off. Time whizzes by too fast. If you think of someone tell them. If you want to see someone, make the effort. It is likely you will be pleased you did in the long run.

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

Resolution 5. Choose to really live.

How to: People so often try to do the right thing at the detriment of their own happiness. Sometimes they don’t even realise it. Get out of old patterns and habits. Don’t fear change. Stop pretending to yourself and to others that you’re happy about things, if deep down you’re not. Try to get out of negative thinking cycles or anxious avoidant ones. If a choice for your happiness is taken away from you, then choose to make the most of what you have. Don’t die inside whilst you’re still alive.

Be the person that you would want your children to grow up and be (even if you don’t have children or if they’re grown up already!). The ‘do as I say, not as I do’ rule doesn’t work I’m afraid. Your children will be the person that you are, not the person that you want them to be. So if you are not what you would want them to be, you need to change.

In brief, live fully, slow down, be brave, stay in touch, love wholeheartedly and allow yourself to do what you really want to do. Laugh properly and be silly. Life is incredibly short, enjoy it and make the most of it, while you still can.

Happy resolving people!

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