I Lived

About 18 years ago I worked on a TV programme called ‘50 Things To Do Before You Die’. 20,000 BBC viewers voted and we compiled a list, a number of which we filmed.

Top was swimming with dolphins with various other experiences with animals making the list – whale watching, diving with sharks, riding camels to the pyramids, and seeing elephants and mountain gorillas in their natural habitats, showing clearly how much of a nation of animal lovers we are.

The obvious ones appeared on the list too; climbing Mount Everest, riding the Orient Express from London to Venice, flying a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, taking Concorde to New York and lastly my own personal experience, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

But are these really the 50 things we should be aiming to accomplish before we die? These are once in a lifetime experiences and of course result in fantastic memories but are these really what we should be aspiring to achieve?

Recently I read about Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the ‘phenomenal clarity of vision’ that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. When questioned about any regrets they had, she said common themes surfaced again and again.

The most common regret of all was ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me’.

When people realise that their life is almost over and look back, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled due to choices they had made, or not made.

‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’ came from every male patient that she nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship and deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of work.

‘I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings’. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.

‘I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends’. People became so caught up in their own lives that they had let friendships slip by over the years. There were many regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort they deserved.

And lastly, ‘I wish that I had let myself be happier’. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and be happy in their life again.

These regrets are far removed from the regrets we would have if we didn’t accomplish any of the 50 things to do before you die. It is up to us to fulfill our dreams and have the courage to live life to the full. Happiness is our choice. Staying stuck in the comfort of familiarity is actually just about the fear of change.

Even children’s stories like Winnie the Pooh teach us to seize the day and have the belief that something wonderful is about to happen.

“Supposing a tree fell down when we were underneath it?’ asked Piglet. ‘Supposing it didn’t, said Pooh after careful thought.

We must set aside our worries and let our mind run free, because something wonderful will happen eventually and that freedom of thought teaches us that the toughest roads can lead to the most fulfilling destinations.

A good day is a good day. A bad day can become a good day. What is important is that we make the most of what we have, to take pleasure in life and feel the fear and do things anyway.

Very few realise until their final hours, it is our health which ultimately gives us freedom in life and by then it is sadly too late.

Freedom doesn’t come from taking a physical leap of faith by jumping off a bridge for a bungee jump. Real freedom comes from taking a mental leap of faith in life and not fearing the fall.

We are the ones that own every second that this world can give us. We must make the best of this test and don’t ask why. Life is unpredictable but in the end it’s right and when the end comes we want to be able to say ‘I had the time of my life’.