For several years now, when I am in the car, I have been in the habit of doing the following thought exercise: I imagine that we have an accident, in which I do not survive. What do I regret then that I cannot experience again? What would I have liked to have done, undertaken, experienced? Often I then realize that it is important for me to do nice things with my loved ones, to be in conversation with certain people, to pursue a meaningful course in my work, to dance, to be in nature... It seems sinister at first glance to think about my own death in this way, but it brings me to what is important in my life: what I live for.
Until not too long ago, one of the walls of the bicycle tunnels in the Kruisstraat (Eindhoven center) had the text 'Before I die, I want to...' written on it. Those passing by could write down their life dreams. The beauty was that the wall was completely filled with wishes, dreams and desires of residents of Eindhoven and (far) beyond.
'Before I die, I want to...' is also a question I like to ask students in my work on campus. Students are often not yet preoccupied with death and perhaps that is precisely why this confrontational question can get them thinking about what they really want in their lives. It’s great guide for the choices you make.
Someone who is also concerned with death and how it inspires life is Bronnie Ware. As a nurse, she has worked a lot with people who are about to die and asked them the question of what they regret most when they look back on their lives. This research led to a top five things people generally regret most:
- I wish I had lived my life according to my own expectations, not the expectations of others.
- I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
- I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I had allowed myself to be happier.
It can be insightful to take some time every now and then to reflect: am I still doing the things I want to do in life? Are there some other dreams or longings that I’d like to realize? And how can I do that? I wish you inspiring reflections!
Margit van Tuijl
Life coach at TINT