Some of the best advice about making the most of your life comes from those who know they have little time left to live. This knowledge often leads them to a new clarity of understanding about what is most important in life.
Far from being morbid, the insights gained from these people can be incredibly life affirming. They present an opportunity for us all to reflect on how we are living our lives and to consider whether we are living a life that is true to ourselves and making the most of every day.
BEING TRUE TO YOURSELF
Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse working with terminally ill patients, summarised the top 5 regrets of the dying in a blog post that later got turned into a book.
The most common regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Being true to yourself means listening to your ‘inner voice’ rather than basing your decisions on what society / other people expect.
This is easier said than done but a good way to start is to ask yourself if you would still be doing what you are doing if you weren’t getting paid (in the case of work) or if you weren’t worried what other people would say.
If the answer is ‘no’, then ask yourself what one thing you could do to start living in a way that is more true to yourself.
If you feel you are already living a life true to yourself, then this is a good reminder to keep checking as you go along to make sure that this stays the case.
Asking myself these questions led to me making a number of changes in my own life over several years, and eventually led to me retraining as a coach and leaving my corporate job. It’s very much an ongoing process for me, with a continual feedback loop as I try new things and learn from them.
It started with small changes though – for example, taking up hobbies that I’d let slip when I was ‘too busy’. For example, I really enjoy playing music but hadn’t done so for years, so I signed up for ukulele classes, which ticked lots of boxes for me – ukulele playing is sociable, creative and fun.
It’s not about changing everything in one go but about taking steps in the right direction that then create momentum that leads to more changes. It may simply be a case of doing more of one thing and less of another, or it may require more radical shifts, depending upon where you are at the moment. In either case, taking the first step is the important thing.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Stephen Sutton died of cancer at the age of 19 in 2014. The fundraising campaign he started has now raised over £5m for charity. He gave a speech in which he encouraged the audience to make the most of every day:
“What I want you to think about is that in a way it’s a bit of a shame that I’ve had to rely on tragedy, i.e. in the form of cancer, to remind me to have a good time, to remind me to do something – you know, it shouldn’t be like that if we want to go out there and achieve stuff, we should go do that, you know. Life is for living”.
What this means is making conscious choices about how we spend our time. It’s about taking a step back, looking objectively at what we actually do each day, and asking ourselves honestly whether this is what we really want to be doing.
It’s not necessarily about being super busy and cramming each day with activity but rather about bringing what we do in line with what our ‘inner voice’ is telling us.
It’s also about not forgetting to have fun, as this can very easily get lost when we have lots of things we are trying to achieve. This is something I keep reminding myself as it’s easy to forget the fun part when you are focused on particular goals such as building a business.
I believe it’s absolutely essential to give yourself time to recharge and have fun if you are to enjoy life to the full, and having fun is also a very important element in the creative process.
WHAT WOULD YOU REGRET NOT HAVING DONE IF YOU HAD NO MORE TIME LEFT TO DO IT – AND WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY TO MAKE A START ON DOING IT?