Top 5 regrets of the dying…No 2 will impact your mid-life career today

Bronnie Ware, a Sydney-based, palliative care nurse spent 8 years caring for individuals at the end of their lives and wrote an article about her learnings during that period of her career. She summarised the end-of-life wisdom offered by her patients into the 5 points below.  

Her article was picked up by the global media and the full story has been crafted into a book which transformed Bronnie’s career and at the same time has influenced the lives of many, including mine.    

My only focus today is on No2 but if you’d like to read the article in full – here’s the link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bronnie-ware/top-5-regrets-of-the-dyin_b_1220965.html.

It surprised me that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE MEN she had interviewed in the last 3-12 weeks of their lives expressed the following regret: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”    These men were often octogenarians who had spent their lives as the sole bread-winner for their family.  

Of course, the world for mid-lifers has changed greatly.  Mid-life women today have infinitely more choice about their careers than the previous generation.  That said,  I wonder when we mid-lifers are nearing the end of our lives whether “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” will remain one of our top-listed end-of-life regrets?

Look, there is nothing wrong with working hard.   In fact, some of us are just built to work hard - either led by either our personality type or by the training offered by our baby-boomer parents.   I don’t know about you but I certainly get a great deal of personal satisfaction out of working hard, ESPECIALLY when I am working hard at something I love doing.   

When we work hard at something we love doing, or work hard at something that we are great at, it simply doesn’t drain the life out of us the way that working hard on something we either don't enjoy or are not that great at does.   We feel more fulfilled.  We occasionally feel exhilarated and feel like we could keep going for hours.  We feel more youthful and energised.  ALSO there is more of us left over at the end of the day for the people we love in our lives who probably kind of…would like to see us feeling happier.  Win, win.    

dying blossom

Working hard at something you don’t love or something that you are not great at for years or even decades appears to me to be such a waste of a life.

I have very high hopes that my fellow mid-lifers don’t feel as trapped in our “jobs” as the previous generation who had fewer career choices, less opportunities to re-train and less opportunities to share a mortgage with their partner.   

However, it appears that successful professional careers (here in UK at least) require 8-12 hour work days plus lengthy commutes.  If all of us mid-lifers worked hard for 8-12 hours a day doing something we simply loved/were great at, we’d all have these wildly interesting careers and perhaps we’d even be transforming the world during our work day…wouldn’t we?

As it happens, many of the patients in Bronnie’s experience also worked hard for 8-12 hours a day for 40+ years…but still wished they hadn’t.   They may not have had a choice…but we do.  

If you are working in a career that is draining the life out of your life, or if you are doing something that you don’t love and want to start re-designing the second half of your career, have a look at www.midlifeunstuck.com/how-i-work/ or drop me an email at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com to set up a time to speak confidentially. 

If you’re not quite ready but would like access to a growing body of free resources including articles, book recommendations and an up-and-coming selection of client transformation stories, signup to my newsletter at www.midlifeunstuck.com/coaching-work/.