A few years ago, articles about a new book flew around social media.
The book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying compiled the most frequent regrets of people who were dying. Author Bronnie Ware shared the respondents’ reflections with readers in the spirit of “Don’t let it happen to you.”
The five insights:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.” —Bronnie Ware
People at any age can read this list and check themselves, and this is probably why the list resonated with so many hundreds of thousands of people. Readers have shared the Guardian version of this article more than 200,000 times.
As a young professional and business owner, I’ve seen lists very similar to Ware’s end-of-life accounting from entrepreneurs laying down their businesses or retirees laying down their life’s careers. Wherever there’s an ending, there’s an opportunity for reflection and also regret.
And it’s all very interesting given how little structural support the United States’ labor law and customs offer us to put these wisdom pearls into practice.
Employees in this country work long hours, and entrepreneurs often work even longer, especially when just launching companies or products. It can take far too long, with costs far too high, for us to claw back some balance, wellness, quality social life, or family time.
How would it be if we didn’t have to push against a culture of overwork in order to live well? Laurie Penny asks this question in an article on the individualistic self-care movement.
The rigors of both work and worklessness, the colonization of every public space by private money, the precarity of daily living, and the growing impossibility of building any sort of community maroon each of us in our lonely struggle to survive. We are supposed to believe that we can only work to improve our lives on that same individual level. Chris Maisano concludes that while ‘the appeal of individualistic and therapeutic approaches to the problems of our time is not difficult to apprehend . . . it is only through the creation of solidarities that rebuild confidence in our collective capacity to change the world that their grip can be broken.'”