“Because”, Morrie* continued, “most of us most of us walk around as if we are sleepwalking. We really don’t experience the world fully because we’re half asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do.”
I’ve always had a fascination with the opinions of the dying. When time begins to slip away like water in the palm of your hand – some falling away between the fingers, some being absorbed & some remaining to offer reflection – I believe what is truly important in living can be found in the handshake of dying.
But… aren’t we all dying?
As soon as we are born the timer starts ticking, counting down from a number we never get to know. From the very beginning, we are on the road back home. As they say, it is the journey not the destination that counts.
So, who better to highlight which paths to take, the decisions to make, then those who have already been down that ‘road’?
In my opinion – nobody; because, at the end of the day, what’s most important is remembered.
“Oh yes, you strip away all that stuff and focus on the essentials. When you realise you’re going to die, you see everything much differently.” He* sighed, “Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.”
Buddhists (figuratively) place a little bird on their shoulder, to whom they ask the questions of life & death: Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?
These four questions ignite thoughts that can completely ground you if you take the time to answer them honestly. These four questions have the power to change your life’s path, for the better.
As does this next exercise…
It is a very simple, yet, effective tool that has offered me so much joy, excitement & motivation ‘on the road’ (& what better way to spend your days?); &, is a gift that I believe everyone should be offered:
Replace the word need with the word want. That’s it.
I need to go to work.
I need to go for a run.
I need to start eating healthier.
I need to send time with my kids.
I need to do the laundry.
I need to cook dinner.
The list goes on…
Two great things happen as a result of this little change:
The importance of a task becomes vividly apparent.
Why am I doing this? What do I receive if I do this? What do others receive if I do this?
Changing your need to’s to want to’s assigns meaning to your life.
The importance of how you’re spending your time becomes apparent.
(Perhaps for the first time in a long time)
“We are too involved in materialistic things, & they don’t satisfy us.” He* continued, “The loving relationships we we have, the universe around us, we take those things for granted.”
‘The Doughnut Existence’ – a life that is seemingly wonderful on the outside, one that has all the trimmings, however, as one walks their path, day to day, they are empty in the centre (where it counts) – one void of pure joy, lasting excitement & motivation when there is no wind at sea.
Need places a limit on what can be achieved.
Want opens the flood gates on the beautiful realm of unknown possibilities; & where you end up, or what you discover, may be far greater than anything you could have imagined when your mind decided it need something.
Want lifts the veil, widens your eyes to the wonder of the world & sets your soul alight.
Need creates a disabling & limiting selfishness, but want full-fills your lungs as you breathe in anticipation, & spans your arms wide, wider than ever before, as you bring like-minds along for the ride! (& what a ride life is when you’re joyous, excited & motivated, huh?)
So, I offer you “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” as offered by Bronnie Ware in her book of the same name:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. They deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
- I wish I had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
- I wish I had allowed myself to be happier. This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
These regrets are directly from the people that have walked your path of life. They have done the time you’re doing, made the mistakes you’re making, missed out on the things you are missing out on, but…
You can have it all. You can have the cake and eat it too (with all the trimmings), if you want to, but…
My last piece of advice would be this (& I apologise if this comes as a bit of a shock):
Do not think for a minute you are any different. You’re special, yes, but you’re no different. You’re human, after all.
*Excerpts borrowed from Mitch Albom’s book, Tuesday’s with Morrie.