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What can we learn from terminally ill people who know they are dying? What do these people regret?

Knowing their regrets, is there anything we can do to live a more fulfilling life? What can we do to live a life free of regrets?

Bronnie Ware spent several years sitting by the bedside of the dying people. Based on this experience, she wrote a blog and a book. In her writings, Ware identified the five most common regrets she encountered.

I became interested in what we can do in the present to have a more fulfilling life. What can we do to prevent having regrets at the end of life? The result is this series of four articles.

In these articles, I rely heavily on the model of physical, hedonic, eudaemonic, and social well-being. To derive the most benefit from this article(the third in the series), I recommend you read the previous two.*

According to Bronnie Ware:

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it.

 

This regret is caused by a malfunction in three eudaemonic functions * :

  • Autonomy
  • Purpose and meaning in life
  • Environmental mastery

Recall the regret we are discussing in this article: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This regret expresses an internal conflict. On the one hand, your spirit has a variety of needs, yearnings, desires, and interests. Your spirit inspires you to act! Recall that the eudaemonic factor “purpose and meaning in life” is closely related to the human spirit.

Your environment, parents, and society often counteract the spirit.

Society and your social circle may automatically try to impose their opinions, needs, and desires on you. They try to make you do what they want and make you forget about what your spirit wants. People with imbalanced autonomy factor tend to suppress desires of their own spirit and succumb to the pressure of society.

Finally, the skill of environmental mastery helps you to find a middle ground between the desires of your spirit and of society. This factor helps you to manage your environment to find the perfect balance and create a life for yourself that you truly want. Imbalance in any one of these factors can lead to the end of life regret.

 

Purpose and meaning in life (spirit and its yearnings)

Your environmental mastery and autonomy might be functioning well. However, if you are not in touch with your spirit and its yearnings, you will automatically succumb to the pressures of society. This means that you need to learn to connect with your spirit and its yearnings.

Oftentimes, we think that we are in touch with our spirit while, in reality, we are not. So, let me briefly focus on this. You have needs, yearnings, dreams, and a unique potential. Maybe you are thinking to yourself while reading the previous sentence:

“Maybe everybody, but not me…”

Flashback to your childhood memories. I bet you had tons of aspirations! Maybe you wanted to become an actor, maybe you wanted to become a soccer player. You had tons of dreams! It is just so happened that the thing called life took over and you forgot about your dreams! Now might be the time to remember these dreams! But this might be easier said than done.

The most powerful way to reawaken your spirit is by training your awareness of inner body sensations and action impulses. With hundreds of clients, I have observed how during soma system® therapy sessions, people transform from being exhausted and depressed to being energetic and happy.

The trick is to connect to your inner body sensations and learn to recognize action impulses. *

 

Autonomy (societal goals imposed on you)

Once you connect to your dreams and are ready to start fulfilling them, something called life will knock on your door: “Not so fast!” The environment is ready to interfere with your plans.

Some people will try to actively dissuade you from fulfilling your dreams, for example, your spouse might tell you:

– “What? You want to take acting classes? Forget about it! You’re already 50, what’s wrong with you!” And you think to yourself, “That’s probably right. I’m too old, it’s too late to try something new.”

You might be in touch with your spirit and its yearnings. And at the same time, you may feel that the opinions of your family and loved ones have always overpowered you, and you don’t have enough stamina to fight them off and protect your right to do what you really want to do! This means your autonomy factor is underdeveloped. One of the most powerful ways to balance this factor is using soma system® therapeutic combat exercises.

I will illustrate this with one example. The exercise involves two people, a soma system® therapist and a client. Both the therapist and client have a particular goal, such as touching the partner’s shoulder. Both partners move very slowly, with each partner pursuing his goal. The therapist intentionally creates a situation wherein the client is put in a position to resist the therapist’s movement and respond by implementing his own movement.

 

Environmental Mastery (creating a life of balance)

Finally, you might be in touch with your spirit and have no problems with resisting pressure from your social circle and society. At the same time, you may not be skilled at environmental mastery. It is environmental mastery that helps us find the balance

between the two opposing forces: the desires of your spirit and the desires of society. It takes learning this particular skill to manage your environment and create contexts and situations that satisfy your personal needs, values, and dreams.

For example, your boss calls you up on Friday asking you to work over the weekend, which would prevent you from taking this long-awaited acting class. How do you handle the situation? Do you manage to interact with the environment in such a way so as to both maintain a good relationship and fulfill your dreams? If you cannot immediately fulfill your dream, don’t despair. All this means is that you need to invest some time into building up the skill of environment mastery. *

 

Importance

Why is it important to understand that you need at least three eudaemonic functions to fulfill your dreams and avoid having the regret discussed in this article? The answer is very simple.

If you do not manage to fulfill your dreams right away, you can learn from this experience and identify which of the three functions you need to develop. Oftentimes, when we fail in something, we make a judgment. “I am not capable of fulfilling my dream! I am way too old/stupid/young/smart.” But this is not true!

It is not that you are not capable of fulfilling your dreams. It is that you simply need to improve these three primary eudaemonic factors first! And as you start improving these three functions, you automatically start improving another eudaemonic factor – personal growth. This will increase your flourishing and quality of life even more!

 

References

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