Thursday, 2 February 2012

Top Five Regrets of the Dying.... and how not to have any!

Yesterday I read a really poignant article in the Guardian about the Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Drawn from the observations of palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, the things people most regret are listed as follows:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard. 

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. 

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.  

The article affected me more than I expected.  To think these of these things when it is too late to do anything about it is so very sad.  So seize the day and ask yourself if you are living a life that is true to you?  Are you on a work treadmill or loving what you do?  Do you suppress your own feelings to keep the peace?  Is your life so busy that you have lost touch with dear friends (a big problem for me)?  Do you allow yourself to be silly?

None of us know when the grim reaper will strike, so it's best to follow the old adage and live each day as though it is your last.  To focus your time and attention on things and people that you love, to laugh and to cry and to share your joys and sorrows.  

But how do you find out what your dreams are?

I have a friend that I truly treasure.  She is thoughtful, loyal, deeply creative and very, very courageous.  She takes responsibility for her choices and her feelings.  She looks damn cool and she can dance.  Her name is Michelle and we grew up together.  She has shaped my life in any number of important ways.  Over a year ago Michelle, a trained person-centered therapist, was working in Community Development.  Out of her work, her philosophy, her training and her creative mind, she conceived of a new methodology for helping people to realise their dreams - and to follow them.  And a year ago she helped me to follow mine. 

It's called Life Planning (not Life Coaching, note).  In her own words:

What the devil is life planning? Is it life coaching?

Life Planning is a process which helps people to (re)discover what they really want from life.

I encourage my clients to think and develop what they would do if they were unconstrained which leads to lots of interesting findings. This involves some visualisation, hard work, but is also lots of fun. I believe we all know what we want to from life, but sometimes it can get hidden because the 'shoulds' that exist all around us. I create the right environment for these desires to see the light of day.

I'm a good listener (I'm a Counselling Psychotherapist) and am skilled at helping clients to find where their passions really lie. We then work together to form a realistic plan to help the client get the life they want.

I think in some ways it's an alternative to Life Coaching, and is an approach I've developed myself. Rather than focusing on goals – which is something which Life Coach (and can be really helpful) often does. I work to uncover passions and dreams and then work with my client to find ways to incorporate the things that make life great into their life. 

What made you decide a new approach was needed?

I think there is a gap between traditional life coaching and counselling. Someone may not have worked out their goals or know what they want from life, but also not be in need of counselling. This aims to help people who have got stuck and don't know what they want from their life.

I discovered the effectiveness of my approach sort of accidentally, I had been playing around with some ideas about what might be helpful for someone who wanted a change. I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to this sort of thing, so developed my ideas, then tried it on a friend who really benefited from it and changed some important things in her life. I then thought about how to bring life planning into more people's lives and so developed my own business. 

You talk about people rediscovering their dreams and the life they want. Did you have a childhood dream? What is your dream now?

When I was little I wanted to be a Forensic Scientist, I had a little science set and a love of detective programs y'see. I still am a Poirot addict.

My dreams morph and change often, but at the moment I really want to make my business a success. Having the right balance in life is always important to me so what's important to me is spending time with friends (usually involving food), having the time to create menus and cook for people, hanging out with my lovely husband, having time to myself, making presents, and creating pieces of art.

In terms of the slightly more distant future my dreams are to write a book about life planning, have my own counselling practice, have well regarded art exhibition and live in a house with a beautiful garden and grow veg. I feel like all these dreams are reachable, and I'm enjoying what I have right now too. At the moment my dreams are very close to reality, and I feel very lucky but there are still challenges which keeps me excited and motivated. 

What do you think stops people from rediscovering their dreams and following them?

As people grow up they are told about things that they should and shouldn't do, it's absolutely essential because as a child you need to be taught what to avoid in order to stay alive. However, we often can't tell what is essential to our life for example 'don't put your hand in a fire' , to a preference such as 'get a job that pays well'.

In so many ways we are told from loved ones or society what we should want that we can become distant from our real loves. It can become difficult to access what it is we really want, and separate other people's desires for us. I love the process of Life Planning and seeing people get in touch with the part of them which they may have lost, as they begin to sparkle when they discover the life they really want. In the words of Howard Thurman “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 

To find out more about Michelle's Life Planning approach visit Life Planning and (Re)Discover the life you want. 

Do you have any regrets or like Edith Piaf, do you regret nothing? 

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