You’d think with over 7 billion people in the world, we’d have quite a few examples of how to live a life without regret. Yet for some reason or another we’re still making decisions that lead to the same regrets time after time. Author Bronnie Ware outlines the top 5 regrets of the dying in her book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing after years of work in palliative care.

Most of us have a bucket list. You know, that list of accomplishments we want to achieve before we die. It might include:

  • Learn another language
  • Earn a million dollars
  • Travel the world
  • Go skydiving
  • Get a Ph.D.
  • Buy a specific type of car

There is nothing inherently wrong with putting any of these items on a bucket list. After all it’s your list and the things you want to achieve have relevance and importance to you in their own unique way. However, after reading the book and going over the top five regrets of the dying I couldn’t help but think I have been going about my goals and ambitions completely wrong. Most of the things I’d like to accomplish are exciting, challenging, and rewarding but I had to step back for a minute and ask myself when it’s all said and done will any of those accomplishments.

A new way to create your bucket list

When Ware discussed with some of her patients over the years what they regretted most in their lives the top common responses are as follows.

I wish I had the courage to live life true to myself. The fastest way to stress, anxiety, and unhappiness is by comparing yourself to others or trying to keep up with the Joneses. Making decisions and living your life based on the opinions of what others consider to be good and bad. There is nothing wrong with wanting to please people. It’s just important to make sure that it is aligned with what is most important to you.

This can lead to some problems. The people you care about most and whose opinions you respect might be making it difficult for you to pursue that which is most important to you.

It’s important to remember that to be safe and secure is ingrained in us. It goes back to our days as cavemen and women. The first priority was to stay alive. Avoid predators, find food and shelter, and find a decent looking mate so that we could keep the blood lines going.

If you are looking to live a life more authentic to yourself but are battling the naysayers there are three things you can do:

1. Spin it and just say thanks. When someone close to me voices their opinion or concern for decisions I may be making, I just say thank you. I thank them for loving me so much to concern themselves with my safety and well-being. I then explain that these decisions are being made because I want to create the happiest and most enjoyable life for myself.

2. Actions speak louder than words. Don’t just pitch your dreams to someone, live them. Prove that it is possible to do things a little differently than most and still be safe and secure in the long run even if that means sacrificing some of that right now.

3 Contribute. Think of yourself as a quiet leader. While this post is about making decisions that are most important to you it is still important to keep others in mind.

And always remember that those that care the most about you are often more concerned about your safety than they are with your happiness.

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Most of those that mentioned this as a regret based it on their desire to have spent more time with their kids, significant others, and friends. However, this is just a matter of priorities as we all have the same 24 hours to use in a day.

Time influences so many of the most important decisions you will ever make in your entire life. Just think of how often you’ve heard:

  • I just don’t have enough time.
  • It’s about time you started settling down.
  • Isn’t it about time you got serious?
  • By the time I’m _____ years old, I want to be ______.

The most successful people in the world today treat their time like currency, it is their most valuable resource, prioritized over money, sex, and all things under the sun. Here are three ways you can start spending your time more wisely.

1. Creating specific routines that you can perform day in and day it is a great way to create positive energy management. These can be as simple as getting up at the same to time every day, starting your day with a certain breakfast or exercise routine, or taking a 50/10 break where you take 10 minutes to reset for every 50 minutes of work.

2. Take time to plan your week, I like Sundays to set up what it is I plan to accomplish. I typically dedicate days for certain tasks like exercise, cooking, research, writing, laundry, fun, or whatever else I have going on. I also schedule daily activities like email, phone, meetings, etc. for specific times each day. For example, I try to not check email until 7PM everyday.

3. Watch out for bad mojo.  Some people you spend time with can be energy zappers. You know, those Negative Nancys who are always shooting down ideas, in a bad mood, or create a toxic environment. Run a quick evaluation of friends and family, which ones contribute to more energy, success, and happiness for you and which ones don’t?

I wish I would have expressed my true feelings. The most common reason for not fully expressing their emotions was in order to keep the peace or to avoid bitterness and resentment within personal relationships. I agree with this to a certain extent but when I think about my own personal experiences the fear of expressing my true feelings usually comes down to attempts to avoid vulnerability.

Let’s face it, being vulnerable is scary. You’re putting yourself out there on the line to be judged, hurt, and rejected. However, this is a common mistake most of us make, we spend to much time concentrating on the negative outcomes that we forget about the more likely and positive outcomes that could take place.

Just ask yourself this question; What’s worse: getting hurt because I was being true to myself and expressing who I am or keeping my authenticity buried inside and never truly experiencing deep and meaningful relationships and emotions?

I wish I stayed in touch with friends. Most of those who referred to this said they believed they were too wrapped up in their own lives and took for granted the importance of maintaining personal relationships. It’s easy to simply expect significant others, friends, and other loved ones to be there for us when we need them. Sometimes you might forget that they have their own lives, priorities, and experiences to have.

One way to maintain your friendships and other relationships with those closet to you is to expect nothing in return. Be there for them when they need you, call for no reason at all, write letters, hug them when you see them, and be the one that actively seeks to improve the relationship. Don’t simply expect them to.

I wish I let myself be happier. This one sort of baffled me a bit. Nobody in their right mind would not actually not let themselves be happier. So what in the heck is it that leads to feelings of not maximizing your happiness? I’ve personally researched the concept of happiness to death. There are so many wonderful books out there that detail findings on how you can become much happier not only immediately but over the course of a lifetime.

So what exactly makes us happy? You tell me, take a second to ask yourself that very question, I bet many of you never have. What makes you happiest. Are there certain people in your life you would regret not spending more time with? Is there an active you just have to do that would immediately results in more happiness? A book you have to read? Some feelings you need to express? Or a few fears you need to face?

The science tells us that there are some common themes that determine your levels of happiness.

  • Practicing gratitude
  • Staying optimistic
  • Learning to forgive
  • Practicing acts of kindness
  • Committing to your goals

To just name a few. However what if gratitude isn’t what brings you happiness, and instead a girl named Molly is? What if being optimistic just doesn’t do it for you but a night stroll in the sand next to the beach does it? Maybe you’re not the type that sets and commits to goals but a glass of wine on a Thursday night with your best friend sure puts a smile on your face.

Maybe it’s time to update that bucket list.

But is preparing a bucket list full of cliché items the right thing to do? Is it productive?: How to Create and Manage Your “Bucket List” Before You Kick

Featured photo credit: A celebration of hot air balloons on a summer day via Shutterstock

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