Dirt Bucket BrigadeRecently, a friend sent me a February 2012 article about the “Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” Nurse and songwriter Bronnie Ware originally shared these insights from her work as a palliative caregiver in an October 2010 blog post. The post went viral and led to her 2012 book.

The top five regrets from those at the end of their lives include:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

I see a common theme among these top five regrets – not living one’s purpose and values. Living a life others expected of them? Not true to their best self. Working so hard that they didn’t do things more in line with their life’s purpose? Not true to their best self.

Keeping one’s feelings bottled up? Disconnecting from friends? Curbing one’s day-to-day happiness? All indications that they’d not lived a life aligned to their true purpose and values.

We cannot be of service or of grace if we are not living our true purpose and values. Bronnie’s insights provide us the opportunity to change up our daily plans, decisions, and actions NOW – and live our best selves.

Be Your Best Self

Start with clarifying your purpose & values. For purpose, consider these questions:

  • What is my reason for being in this life?
  • What am I here to contribute or accomplish?
  • Who am I most inspired to serve?

Here’s my personal purpose statement: “To inspire and encourage others – life leaders and participants – to clarify their personal values and to serve with authenticity.”

For values, note the principles that you believe, in your soul, to be valid, right, and good. Define your values specifically. Then identify 2-3 valued behaviors that indicate the observable, measurable ways you’ll demonstrate your values.

Write these down. It may take a few drafts before you reach a purpose & values statement that you’re satisfied with.

Once your personal purpose and values are formalized, it is easier to assess ways you can demonstrate alignment to your best self. Where can you refine how you spend your time and talent to ensure you’re doing MORE values-aligned activities?

For example, could you carve out time to build a church foundation in Jamaica (like the gentleman in the photo above)? If you are a singer and/or musician, is there an organization like San Francisco’s Bread & Roses that provides free, live, quality shows to people otherwise isolated from society? Is there a soup kitchen in your city that needs your help?

There are hundreds of ways you can volunteer your time and talent, in and out of your workplace. Find one or two that inspire you, that help you demonstrate your personal purpose and values. Your spirit will soar and your regrets will be few(er).

What are your thoughts? Join in the conversation about this post/podcast in the comments section below. How do you live your true purpose and values? How does your best self serve others in your community?

FREE SURVEY: What is it like to work in your company culture? Contribute your experiences in my FREE Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis will be shared in an upcoming post and podcast.

Photo © iStockphoto.com/sframephoto

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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  1. kyliedunn says

    Great post Chris, I completely agree with this. One of the most important activities that I undertook in my Year of TED was working out my drive, which included my purpose, belief, cause and values (http://www.kyliedunn.com/2012/02/reflection-30-days-of-drive.html). This has really helped me understand and start to align my life towards a more authentic existence, one result has been becoming a volunteer literacy tutor. There is still a way to go with it, but at least I know when I am making decisions whether they will or will not contribute to my authentic life.

    • S. Chris Edmonds says

      Thanks for your kind words, Kylie. Your “30 days of drive” efforts sounds like it made a HUGE difference in your life! Congratulations for setting aside time for it AND completing the foundation of your purpose, belief, cause, and values.
      Please keep me informed on the learnings you enjoy on this journey.



      S. Chris Edmonds, MHROD  MacBook Air & iMac DrivingResultsThroughCulture.com

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