We have been reflecting on various definitions of success in part 1 and part 2 of this series.


For most people success, and certainly while growing up for me, it seemed to be defined as:

You work hard

  • to get into the best college
  • to launch into the best career
  • to make the most money
  • to accumulate the most toys and bright shiny objects.
  • to retire as early as possible.

On one level that can certainly look exciting and enticing as it is very clear and externally focussed. You can certainly tell if you are winning or not. The problem is that ultimately it leaves one with a sense of emptiness and lack of fulfilment.

In the last blog post we concluded with an alternative definition on true success from Rick Warren as “having those who know me the best respect and love me the most and finishing well.”

What I find helpful about such a definition is that it forces me to look at my life holistically and in its entirety as well from the inside-out. Those who are the closest to me know what I am really like and if I am in right relationship with them then I can go on to face anything else in this world from a position of strength.

A recent immensely popular book by Australian nurse Bronnie Ware called, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing” provides some very interesting insights into this. The top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware along with her comments are as follows:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise 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 honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. 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. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Reading such an account is not easy. And yet clearly and logically thinking this through can be enormously beneficial and powerful in planning for how I can live my life with a view to lasting success.

How about you?

what is your response to such insights? Feel free to leave your comments below and help us expand and deepen our discussion.