Posted on by Josh Patterson

5 Tips For Motivation From The Regrets Of The Dying


Death, aye? Quite the morbid topic huh?

Well, you might be a little right there. Though the thought of dying might not be a subject for the feint of heart, there are lessons to be learned from those who have experienced it. Lessons of motivation and priorities.

So where are we going with this one?

A little while back, blogger and acclaimed author Bronnie Ware published an article titled, Regrets of the Dying. From her time as a palliative nurse counseling terminal patients, Bronnie observed five common regrets among those with numbered days.

The list goes something like this:

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 didn’t work 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 became so popular, Bronnie went on to write a book expanding on the topic titled, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing

The funny (and somewhat scary) thing is, I could see myself having all of these same regrets. I’m sure you can as well, am I right?

The Motivational Spin

So how can we make sure we don’t follow in this same pattern, ending up with these same regrets?

While these five regrets seem depressing at best, by putting a positive, actionable spin on them, they actually become very uplifting and motivational. Here’s what I mean:

Investor Paul Graham, who started the first “Software as a Service” company in 1995 and later went on to found Y-Combinator (if you’re into all that geeky business shit like I am), wrote an article titled, The Top of My Todo List.

In the article, Paul references Bronnie’s findings, as well as saying how much he’d like to avoid making these same mistakes (and who wouldn’t?). What Paul did was, instead of letting these regrets haunt his days, rewrote the list into a series of five motivational commands:

Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.

Ever since, Paul places this list of five commands at the top of his todo lists, as a reminder of what is really important.

Actionable Tip:

Whether you use Paul Graham’s list of commands or come up with your own, make note of what is important to you, and place it at the top of your own todo lists, as well as somewhere you’ll see it every day (take a look at the footer of this site).

When deciding whether or not you want to do something, have to do something, or if something is truly important to you, take a look at your list. You’ll be amazed how clear your priorities become.

Sidenote: Thanks to Corbett, Chase & Caleb from Fizzle for turning me on to this idea. You can listen to their podcast episode on motivation here.


About Josh Patterson

Josh is a young business professional with an unhealthy obsession with sushi, a love of craft beer and has been known to occasionally grow a pretty mean mustache. Learn more about Josh and his site or follow him on Twitter.

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