I recently read an article in The Huffington Post regarding our biggest regrets when dying. It was a very interesting read. The article was based on a book that a palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote titled The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying: A Life Transformed By The Dearly Departing.
Ms. Ware had the opportunity to care for a number of people in their final few weeks of life and was surprised that so many had the same regrets at death. She states,”People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality and some changes were phenomenal.”
Each regret carries significance for leaders in whatever capacity they are serving in. Leadership has many demands and responsibilities, and many of those demands and responsibilities are meaningful and filled with great purpose.
Whether you are a leader in the workplace, a volunteer organization, home or in another capacity, there are important lessons to be learned from each of these regrets.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Have you found your purpose? Are you helping others realize theirs? According to Ms. Ware this was the biggest regret people had. Most had failed to realize less than half of their dreams.
Great leaders live a life true to themselves whether that be feeding the hungry, inspiring a group of youth or one thousand other things that can be done – they find what their calling is and then have the courage to take the steps to realize it. Leaders also inspire and guide others to live with purpose as well.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. This one is not much of a surprise. Most of us, when we are on our death beds, won’t regret not putting in more hours at work. Instead we will wish we would have spent more time smelling the flowers, appreciating the beauty we are surrounded by and more importantly spending time with our families.
Work-life balance is the key for leaders and those they lead. How is your balance? Are you placing a priority on others work-life balance?
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. This one was interesting. According to Ms. Ware many people felt they became ill because of suppressing their feelings and harboring “bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.” In the end they didn’t become who they were capable of becoming.
Honesty in how we express ourselves is a key characteristic of good leaders. And encouraging others to express themselves honestly is critical to the health of our teams and organizations.
To not talk honestly and openly leads to inefficiency, fewer growth opportunities due to a lack of healthy feedback and some of the most damaging behaviors in the work place and other organizations; gossip, backbiting, and evil speaking of others.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Relationships are at the heart of living. Leaders realize how important effective relationships are to their success. Because great leaders care, they never lose touch with those they cared about. Do you continue to stay in touch and inspire those you have led even after the team has dissolved or time to lead has ended?
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. This regret was “a surprisingly common one” according to Ms. Ware. Much of this regret was due to people staying stuck in a comfort zone and justifying that they were happy there.
What are you doing to really live life? An important ingredient to happiness is reaching goals and overcoming difficult things. It’s the art of discipline and results of achievement that help us live life completely. Are you regularly challenging yourselves and others?
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