Almost Everyone On Their Deathbed Regrets Working Too Much
An Australian nurse, who spent years counseling men and women at their deathbeds, recorded their revelations and regrets on her blog, which she's now turned into a book, "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying." The most common regrets, she found, were doing what others expected of you over what you truly wanted, suppressing your feelings, losing touch with old friends, and choosing comfort over true happiness. And at No. 2: wishing you 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," the nurse, Bronnie Ware, writes.
Because Ware was mostly caring for people of an older generation, the women usually weren't the breadwinners, and so expressed this feeling less. But every single man uttered the same lament. "All the men I nursed," Ware writes, "deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
Women are increasingly becoming breadwinners though; women contribute an average of 42 percent to the household income in 2009, according to a report from the progressive think tank, Center for American Progress. But there are signs that these women, and younger men, won't sacrifice family life for their jobs the way their parents and grandparents may have.
Many studies have found that Generation Y -- the generation currently in college and entering the workforce -- prefers working to live over living to work, and are choosing companies that understand that. They've rejected the idea of work-life balance, according to Gustav Grodnitzky, a management consultant who specializes in these issues. And instead seek a "blended life" where "everything they do has meaning and is important -- hence, the importance of purpose and cause -- and it doesn't matter where the work gets done but that it gets done."
In the words of Lara Sherbin, the director of research at the nonprofit think tank, Center for Work-Life Policy: "Generation Y looked at how their parents lived, and are saying 'I don't want to do that, I don't want that life for myself.'"
But even the men and women who look back with sadness at how hard they worked, and what they lost as a result, come to terms with it in the end. Ware witnessed this herself. "People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality," she writes. "I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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