I know, it's an odd question.
But it's one that I challenge my mentees and even my mentors to consider.
Because it's often all too easy to get caught up like flotsam and jetsam in the daily maelstrom of activities, emotions, obligations and routines and to forget to take a breath, to find space to think and to challenge whether life is in fact taking you where you want to be.
And wouldn't you rather live a full personal or professional life that is satisfying, challenging and controlled by well-made choices on your part, than one full of regret that you allowed opportunities, friendships, and collaborations to pass you by? ...
...a regret that you realise only retrospectively, when it is too late to turn back and change anything?
Often, unless we experience a (typically negative) life-changing moment, such as the death of a loved one, a terrorist attack, a redundancy situation or a sudden health shock, the importance of stepping away and standing still to reflect, is something that we simply don't recognise or prioritise.
Time is the greatest luxury that we have and it is a powerful leveller and rebalancing tool when you can find it. Stepping away from it all, even if just for a few hours (ideally on a regular basis), and reflecting, reading, doing something for you, finding new inspiration for what you want to, or could, do next, is the best investment you can ever make in yourself, and those whose lives you touch.
From childhood, I have always had the mental image of death looking like the mythical Charon of the River Styx, steadily punting his newly dead charges across from the living world to the underworld. In my version of the story, during their journey, he would ask them to tell him about their lives and from those conversations, he would form conclusions about whose lives were well-lived and fulfilled and whose were not, and why.
Of course Charon had nobody but the already dead with whom to share his conclusions. Even if he'd wanted to do so, he wouldn't have been able to change anything for them.
Recently, I came across a short article summarising the 5 most common regrets of the dying. It's probably as close as I will come to discovering those conversations and learnings. I've linked it here because it contains poignant and thought-provoking findings from which we can all learn and that we can each apply positively to our personal and professional lives now - while there is still time to make changes and choices that could avoid these most common regrets.
As today's leaders or tomorrow's future ones, we also have a responsibility to encourage others, who may look to us for guidance and leadership, to do the same.
The article isn't a morbid read. It's not saccharine-coated either. In fact, it's an inspiring story; a 'sit up and take stock now' read. I recommend not just reading it, but also reflecting and asking yourself if you're in danger of having the same regrets. Because life is short, and for both personal and professional reasons, there is much to be said for living a life that is a little less ordinary and a lot less regretful... and inspiring others to achieve the same.
I'm pretty confident that if Death was a business coach, his words would pretty much echo what's shared here.
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I have never met Bronnie Ware – (Bronnie from this point) but I have shared her findings with most of the people I have mentored or advised in the last five years. Her five regrets of the dying rank alongside Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people as among the most significant influences in my adult life.