In my recent webinar on the reasons why most people fail to achieve their dream career, one of the things I referred to was the list of the top five regrets of the dying, as pulled together by Australian nurse Bronnie Ware. The regrets are:
#1 “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
#2 “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
#3 “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
#4 “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
#5 “I wish I had let myself be happier.”
What I love about this is that we have an opportunity here to listen and learn from individuals who are at the very end of their lives, and an opportunity to do something about it. This is huge! It’s as if we could travel into the future and get advice from our older selves and then make the changes we need to make in order to avoid those regrets.
For me, all five regrets come into play when we’re talking about staying in a job that isn’t meaningful to us, playing small, not going for our dreams. Sticking to the expected career path is often a result of both the pressure from other people and the fear that comes with breaking away from those expectations; we work hard as if our jobs were the most important thing in our lives, staying late into the night and checking our emails during our vacations (often in the hope of getting that next promotion, which will have us working even harder); we stay quiet about our true aspirations; we deprioritise friends and family along the way; and, ultimately, we’re not as happy as we could be.
These regrets don’t just apply to those big decisions, though. We worry about what other people will think when we reveal our idiosyncrasies; we hold ourselves back from asking someone out or telling our partners how we really feel; we avoid taking risks that will take us too far out of our warm and snuggly comfort zones.
As we approach the end of the year, it’s a great time to reflect on where we are today, whether we’re really living up to our full potential and, fundamentally, whether or not we’re really happy with the way things are going. If not, then now is as good a time as any to understand the reasons why, and to make some changes!
I’ll be writing much more about this in upcoming posts and resources on the subject of the annual review – looking back on 2016 and looking ahead to 2017.