Note: this post originally published on http://thegangmagazine.com/
Bronnie Ware worked in end-of-life care for the elderly. Her patients were those who had come home to die. She was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
She had many special moments with them; and when she asked them about any regrets they had or anything they would have done differently, she heard the same two things over and over again.
The number one most common regret of people on their deathbed…
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Bronnie said, “When people realize 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 honored 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 realize, until they no longer have it.”
The number two regret (said the dying person)—
“I worked too much and never made time for my loved ones”.
Think about it: we all die. Since we do not get out of here alive, we might as well scratch those two deathbed regrets off our list by Being True to Ourselves (Pursuing our Dreams), and Making Time for those we Love.
So tell me: what’s your dream? What’s on your heart? What little wisp of a wish won’t let go of your spirit, your mind, your intuition? Is there a ‘way things ought to be’, a person You want to be—a thing you are called to do, a contribution to make, that when you think of it, you feel centered, at home, a ‘Yes, that’s me, call me crazy but that is who I am, THAT is me!’
What is that? Can you describe it? What enthuses you? Who do you think God has made you to be, called you do? These dreams & inner passions are usually tied to your gifts. Do you know what your gifts are? In case you don’t…
Here are three helpful hints for identifying your gifts:
1. Your ‘gift’ is obvious. Those who know you—particularly those who love you—call out your gifting and inclinations as ‘obvious’, —so obvious to them they may not have even said anything to you about it, but it’s all over you, it’s who you are. When I was 19 and confessed my desire to be a writer, my Mom said, “I’ve thought you should be a writer since you were in the third grade.”
My wife & I have four children, all with different gifting. Our oldest daughter, Nikki, did her first genuine performance when she 14 months old, under a straw roof on a poolside dance floor at the Fountainbleau hotel in Miami Florida. Caribbean steel drum music was playing. She started toddle-dancing, stamping her feet in pulse and hobble turning, stumpy arms stretched wide, right on beat but wobbling off balance by her saggy diaper—and people were delighted! A smiling group gathered around her and started cheering & clapping in time. Susie & I looked at each other and said ‘Oh my… there it is: The performer charisma gene. Runs in our family, she’s got it.’
2. A second hint for identifying your gift: You Enjoy the Process. You get lost in the ‘doing’, and time flies by. My Dad loved inventing stuff. One time near the end of his life, he was gazing off into the horizon with what looked like a sad expression. I thought he was having a moment of reflective sorrow, mulling over a bagful of regrets, and so I tenderly touched his shoulder and asked what he was thinking. He looked at me, kind of dazed, then snapped to, focused and said: ‘Well, I was thinking about when you line up the gun sights on a shotgun and seek to align with your target….’—he droned on about an idea he had for an invention to improve gunsights. He wasn’t sad! He was grooving on an idea. He did that all the time.
3. A third hint: When you’re ‘doing it’ and perhaps just after it’s done, for a time—maybe just a short time before life’s normal stressors kick in—you feel right with the world, as though things are progressing in the right direction, towards the way they ought to be. Again, this speaks to your God-given gifts and talents—gifts and talents which you seem inherently good at, but which must be honed and developed by you. You don’t show up as a finished product—we are all called to grow, exercise and develop our talents—and when you are exercising yours, it just feels right.
My friend Julie Schwartz is brilliant. She’s a researcher, and she has a thing for data and statistics. She can swim in the stuff—she works spreadsheets while watching TV! Put me in total silence with zero distraction and I still get vertigo just looking at that stuff, but not Julie. She’s in her zone. She knows it, she breathes it, comprehends, analyzes, deduces understanding, and translates it into comprehensible insights that change people’s lives.
Eric Liddle was a missionary called to China. But he was also a runner; his sister told him not to fritter his time away running, but Eric countered saying ‘I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.’
If you don’t yet know your dream, no worries, you are not alone. Stay calm, breath normally. Discovery is part of the process. It’s in you—you have God-given talents that are sprouting as we speak. Let’s search them out.
Survey your family & friends. Ask them what they think you’re ‘naturally good at’. Get their feedback. Think about what you love doing. If you believe in God, pray. If you don’t believe in God, try praying anyway, you might have an epiphany.
We didn’t address the ‘second regret’, so let’s cover it with one point—and if you only take one idea away from this post, make it this one: The greatest thing in the world is Love. And Love never fails. Love never fails. So be loving. Give love, share love.
So there you have it, two principles for extinguishing regrets and making life worth living: Be true to yourself— pursue your dreams; and Make time to be with your Loved Ones. Do those two things today, and you will make it happen.