Welcome back to my 5-week series inspired by the the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, a compilation of the stories of longtime caregiver to the dying, Bronnie Ware.
The book is stirs up thoughts on how we can ensure that we show up fully for our limited time here on earth. My series highlights some connections to how we can be mindful of the regrets that Ware identifies, as we focus on ways we can dream and set meaningful goals.
Ware’s first noted regret is: I Wish I’d Had the Courage to Live a Life True to Myself, Not the One Others Expected of Me. If you missed that one, I suggest you go read it first.
Regret #2 I Wish I Hadn’t Worked So Hard
I will admit, the story Ware tells to share this point left me sobbing as I was listening while trying to drive down the highway. It is one we likely heard before— someone (in this case a man) spends his whole life focused on the prestige of climbing a corporate ladder. Then, as soon as he decides he will retire to “enjoy his life”, something changes that doesn’t allow it. The tragic spin in this story is not that he gets sick, but that his wife who had begged him to retire and travel with her for many years falls ill and dies a month before his long awaited retirement date. He must live out his life with not only grief and loneliness, but heavily burdened with this regret. It is palpable through Ware’s storytelling.
I hope this, and all of these points will make you consider the truth that we will all die someday, and we don’t know when that will be. I hope you can get on a path that allows you to live your life now. And, I think that is more the reason to make sure we do work hard toward the things that bring us fulfillment— things that add value to the person that we are within.
Unfortunately, we spend so much time and energy working hard on things that don’t truly matter as much to us, and also work hard against ourselves. We have many outside forces in our culture that help us do so, but reminding us of what we “should” do, or what we “need” to live a full life. Rather than putting on blinders and taking a “head down and go” approach to your goals, I want to urge you to consider how you can work hard in informed ways that honor your priorities and values in the process.
How can you work for, and not against, yourself in your goal journey?
Start with last week’s message to consider if, and how, you can set goals that are true to you.
Have, or find, a realistic plan. You may have heard, “a goal without a plan is just a wish, or just a dream.” When creating a plan, consider the honest time and energy you have to give to your goal. Do not make it “best case,” and do let go of serious rigidity, so if go off-script you can always return. A plan is vital.
When crafting a plan, also realistically consider your abilities. I highly recommend setting stretch goals, but be careful to also check your ego when deciding on things like specific race pace goals, etc. The best goals allow for some curiosity in the process and actualization. Make sure in all cases, you are willing to fail.
Consider your language around your goal— try to focus on gratitude, using phrases like I “get to”, instead of I “have to.” This may sound insignificant, but your perspective is a small change you can make to not work against yourself.
When something isn’t working, don’t double/triple/quadruple down on your effort before taking a step back to test and understand the foundation. You may need to strengthen it, or even tear down and rebuild, rather than continuing to build on one that is crumbling, shaky, or even nonexistent. Your energy might better be put to use in establishing boundaries. This goes for relationships as well.
Identify signs of self sabotage, and work to prevent it. Self-sabotage often serves as a coping mechanism that people use to deal with stressful situations and past traumas. It can show up in many ways, in varying parts of life. And while it may seem like second nature to some of you, it takes a lot of work. If you often fall into making all-or-nothing decisions; lean toward perfectionism; or often procrastinate, I urge you to examine the root causes with a professional.
As mentioned, one way to avoid self sabotage is to stop procrastinating. First, craft your plan to your goals in a way that honestly honors your overall time and energy. Then, map out the times that you plan to work on whatever it is you need to do to honor your goal. Also, consider the distractions you may anticipate from others, or ones you create yourself. When the decided time comes to put the work in, do it. This is no doubt easier said than done, but if you don’t allow the time to talk yourself out of it you have a much higher chance of success. Focus on consistency over perfection.
Seek out mentors and leaders. Ask questions. Let others help you, teach you, and possibly carry some of the burdens. Asking for help might be difficult, but I promise you that is is harder to do it all alone.
Many decisions you make toward honoring your goal will be difficult. You get to choose the hard of working for yourself, or the hard of working against yourself.
I hope you choose you.