The secret of happiness

“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.” ~ Thucydides

Free yourself from thoughts of what you should be doing, other people’s expectations of you, and that your life exists solely for work. Live a life true to yourself, your values, and your dreams. It does take a lot of courage and reflection to step back a minute, and look at your life from another perspective farther away maybe outside of your neighborhood or even the city in which you live.

A hospice nurse named Bonnie Ware interviewed palliative care patients and she spent with them the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. She wrote an article listing the top five regrets of the dying:

IMG_5553The number one regret: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This article resonated with me when I asked for the leave of absence, the year off to travel around the world with the love of my life in my late 20’s. It was my dream, I insisted. And I wanted to do this while I was young, healthy, and without other obligations. Surprisingly, the department chair understood and here I am. All it took was the courage to ask. The power of just asking still impresses me to this day.

On this trip, a retired woman who used to work as a high-end tour guide told me a story. She would take elderly wealthy individuals on guided tour trips around Europe. She remembered one particular American lady in her eighties who had finally saved up enough money to take her dream trip to the Netherlands. She had always wanted to see Holland’s landscape and she dreamt of the day she would finally arrive. The lady had signed up for a tour of France and Holland. She was quite frail though and the tour guide was worried about her health and getting on and off the bus at the start of the trip. The tour guide always assisted her, but the elderly lady really required too much of her time and basically needed a travel companion at her side. One day, after all the passengers departed the bus in a small city in France, the tour guide couldn’t find the elderly lady. She ran back up on the bus, and the elderly lady was on the floor of the bus. She was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a broken hip, and would have to spend months recovering in the hospital after surgery. The tour guide felt bad for this lady who would be trapped in a foreign country for months and didn’t even speak the language. The elderly lady also never made it to the Netherlands on that trip. She waited too long. She waited for the perfect time to make her dream come true, but she had lost her health along the way.

The number two regret: I wish I didn’t work so hard. As a teenager, I was always intrigued by talking with adults. Dennis, a middle aged lawyer, was a family friend. Dennis had two daughters, the eldest of which was a pre-teen in middle school. He mentioned to me that he was considering going to a work an hour earlier each day in order to save more money for his eldest daughter’s college fund. Without thinking, I replied that it would be better if he were to spend that extra morning hour spending time with her and eating breakfast with her each day. He chuckled. I don’t know if he ever followed my advise, but I still think it holds true. I guess so do the hospice patients that were interviewed.

What’s your secret to happiness? Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *