Whether you’re working at a startup, attending university, or working for a massive corporation we all find ourselves being buried by stress and huge workloads. It is unfortunately part of being a professional, however, I’ve always thought it shouldn’t drown out the more important things in life. I wrote last time on a similar note, but recently I stumbled across some incredibly insightful information which hasn’t left my mind since I read it.
It is extremely easy for me, and many of the people I know, to get so wrapped up in what we are doing that we forget to give put life into perspective. Through a series of events, I found an article by a nurse named Bonnie Ware. Ms. Ware collected the regrets that her patients told her as they were on their death bed. Reading this profoundly put into perspective which items in life I should worry about, and which items probably don’t matter. Here are the top 5 regrets before dying in summary (click here to read them in full):
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work so hard. (Not one patient ever said, “Man, I wish I had spent more time at the office.”)
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings (both positive and negative ones.)
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The most astounding thing to me, albeit simple, is that every single one of these can be influenced by choice. Paul Graham originally lead me to this article with his “The Top of My Todo List” where he sums these all up into actionable todo items:
Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too hard; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.
None of these items are terribly hard to achieve, but we so easily forget to do them if we don’t put our daily lives into perspective every day and remember what actually matters in the grand scheme of things. We’ll all probably have a few regrets when we die, but we can make damn sure that they aren’t the ones aggregated by Ms. Ware. If you look at life with this perspective, day to day struggles and stress seem rather minor. I’ve never met anyone who told me they wished they worried and stressed more.