2019 Literature show that some of the causes of suicide are:
One in Four Pre-teen Suicides May Be LGBT Youth - Teenager suicides - 25% are because of their Sexuality
- teens- LGBT - stress of coming out or living as a sexual minority, and how the world reacts to their identity, LGBT youth - comorbidly treated for other mental illness (Bisexual females have suicidal thoughts, six times more than heterosexual males.; Bisexual females were also almost 24 times more likely to have a diagnosed mental illness); LGBT- Home family problems, ; Transgender - transgender teenager males were almost four times as likely to have suicide attempts history; https://www.psychcongress.com/article/one-four-pre-teen-suicides-may-be-lgbt-youth
- Opioids Playing Key Role in Rising Suicide, Overdose Rates
- People With Cancer Four Times More Likely to Die by Suicide
- Psychotic Experiences a Marker for Future Suicidal Behavior
- Friendly Texts Tied to Fewer Suicide Attempts in the Military
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were to lose your parents one day? Do you feel scared at this thought? Reader Sumedha asks this question:
How do you overcome the fear of losing your parents or your loved ones? Beyond burying our heads in work and miscellaneous distractions, and ignoring this sinking feeling of something that we don’t wish to face, what can we do to tackle this fear?
In this episode of The Personal Excellence Podcast, I share
PEP 004: How Do I Overcome Fear of Losing My Parents? PEP 004: How Do I Overcome Fear of Losing My Parents?
If you've found The Personal Excellence Podcast useful, I'd really appreciate it if you can leave a good rating and review on iTunes. Your review does make a difference and it will help the podcast to grow and spread the message of conscious living to the world. Thank you!
I’m Scared of Losing My Parents. What Should I Do? [Transcript]
Welcome to The Personal Excellence Podcast. The show that’s all about helping you be your best self and live your best life. Now, your host, Celestine Chua.
Celestine Chua: Hey everyone! Welcome to the Personal Excellence Podcast Episode 4. I’m Celestine Chua from PersonalExcellence.co.
So thank you so much for listening today. I hope you are having a wonderful day. It’s Wednesday here right now and I’m just looking forward to speaking to you guys.
Today we have a question from Sumedha, who wants to know how to deal with the fear of losing our parents. Well, let’s hear from her first.
Hey Sumedha, thank you so much for your question. A very very heartfelt question and I really appreciate how open you are.
Well, I want to say first that your question just speaks volumes about how much you love your parents and how filial you really are. Because I can hear this strong sense of emotions coming through as you were speaking just now.
I totally understand the fear of losing your parents because for most of us, our parents raised us. They are and have been a big part of our lives. For some of us, it’s the first 18 years of our lives; for the others, it could well be the whole of our lives especially those of us in living in Asian cultures.
So losing our parents is definitely a very real fear. And I personally can understand, in that losing my parents as a real possibility that I need to prepare for. Something to realize especially in the past one year. Besides the fact that all of us will die one day, it’s also that my parents are now older. I’m now 31 turning 32 (as of 2016), so my parents are in the 60s, they are not getting any younger.
With old age comes the fact that they are not as fit or healthy as before. Especially my mom — I’ve not mentioned this anywhere, but my mom was diagnosed with cancer last year. Everything’s fine now, like she’s going through treatment and so on. So everything is going great. It really helps that she’s optimistic. She’s incredibly independent and she just brushes off the whole issue as if it’s no big deal. It really makes things easier for us.
But it also brought home this message that maybe there isn’t going to be a lot of time left with my parents and it’s really important that I make the best out of the time that I have with them now.
So, the first thing is to know that death is a reality. In that one day, you are going to die. So am I, I’m gonna die as well.
This is the same for our parents if your parents are still around. For those of you whose parents aren’t, I’m really sorry to hear about your loss. And you probably can empathize more than anyone else the things that we’re talking about right now.
For some of us, our grandparents aren’t even around anymore. For me, all my grandparents have already passed on except for one of my grandmothers.
So the fact is we are all going to die. And I don’t this as a sad thing as much as it is simply part and parcel of life, if it makes sense?
Because for there to be life, there has to be death. For an organism, in order for it to live, it will have to experience death. That is part of the beauty and the nature of living.
So I don’t really think that’s a need to resist the idea or the notion of death as much as understanding it’s part of our being, like just being here on Earth.
And it’s the same for our loved ones as well. If our loved one is to pass on, it’s not really about resisting this idea as much as understanding that this is part of the entire package when we were brought to this Earth. As opposed to feeling negative about it, I think it’s about how can we make the best of it.
This brings to my second point which the key point here isn’t about how can we get rid of the fear, even though that’s not really why you’re asking Sumedha. I don’t really think the key point here is about how we get rid of the fear that surrounds death or death of our parents or how can we detach ourselves from this fear.
Because our parents will die one day as will us. When you love someone, that will naturally be the fear of losing them. I don’t really think it’s about detaching yourself from this fear as much as you asking yourself, “How can I make the best out of my time with them while we are alive?”
I see the majority of this fear surrounding the death of our loved ones, it comes down to two things:
Let me tackle the second factor first, then the first factor.
There was this course participant and longtime reader Kimberly who sent in this Ask Celes letter a couple of years back. Some of you might have read that post before. It’s at personalexcellence.co/blog/loss-of-loved-ones/
So Kim’s father passed away unexpectedly and she was at a loss. This was when she sent in the Ask Celes letter. She wanted to ask me what she should do because she felt that her dad had been this great supporter and inspiration to her, and one of the closest persons in her life up until his passing. She just didn’t know what to do.
In that post, I talked to her about several things and you can read the post in detail for that. But mainly what I mentioned was that just because your dad has passed away doesn’t mean that he isn’t around. This depends on your own spiritual or religious beliefs, but I personally believe that we are souls and we live on forever. Physical death is merely the ending of one part of our existence. Our souls live beyond that. So depending on what you believe, I personally believe that her dad is still around and is well possibly still with her in spirit.
The second thing is, say you don’t believe in spiritual existence or you focus on the fact that your loved one isn’t around anymore. Just because someone dear to you has passed on doesn’t mean that the person’s existence shouldn’t be a part of your life, if it makes any sense. You can still cherish that person’s existence and the impact he/she has made in your life before, by carrying on the messages that you remember from him or her.
For example, in Kim’s case, I told her that she can still uphold her dad’s spirit. Continuing to be inspired by him. And that just because your loved one, parent, or parents have passed on does not mean that they should stop being a motivator in your life. They can still be. You can carry on your values, their teachings, whatever they told you before, their love for you. Carrying that on in your own way and spreading that to the people you meet, the people who are in your lives. So in essence, your parents still live on in you, in spirit.
The other thing I told Kim is that beyond being inspired and motivated by her dad — which is a fantastic thing — it’s important that she learns to live on for herself.
Her dad might have ignited in her about her goals, her dreams, but ultimately that is the catalyst to her finding herself and learning how to live for herself. Creating the life that she loves for herself and for the people around her (at that point she just had a baby).
So that was the cliff notes of the article and you can read more at that link. Kim read it and after about one year three months, she replied to me. She told me how things have been really good for her. She is now an editor of a monthly “Good News” newspaper in her town. She has doubled her income. She’s spending all the time pursuing her passion, doing what she loves in photography and in writing. Meeting people who truly inspire her and being excited about her work. Also, her daughter is already two, and she is continually inspired by her every single day. Basically, she is living life on her terms and living her true path. Reading that I was so excited and happy for her.
The key thing that I want to say here is that sometimes we may be fearful of losing our loved ones or our parents. It can be because we do not know how life would be after they are gone. The most important thing is to know that you can continue to carry on their existence in spirit and to honor who they are, as well as to know that you will be fine at the end of the day.
Because your parents brought you to Earth for a reason. Because they know that you are going to make it. That you are going to be this fighter. And you’re going to be spreading light to this entire world. And that’s why your parents had you. That’s why they brought you into this world.
Getting to the first point that I was mentioning just now, about regretting not loving our parents, regretting not appreciating them while they are alive. This is a very real concern. Sometimes we can be so inundated with all the different concerns, the objectives, the pressures of daily living that we can forget about the things that are most precious to us. In this case, it would be our parents or our loved ones.
I feel here it’s about realizing that showing love for our parents and being there for our parents, it doesn’t have to and shouldn’t wait till they are gone, if you know what I mean? We do not need to wait until our parents have died and for us to be crying and regretting what we should’ve done or shouldn’t have done. Loving our parents and showing love and appreciating them, it can happen today.
To Sumedha and all of you out there who may be feeling fearful of losing your parents or loved ones, I feel that a chunk of this fear may simply come down to you feeling that you are not doing as much as you wish for them. My point to you is that it can all start now. It doesn’t have to wait until a few months or a few years later. Or when you feel that you’re ready.
It also doesn’t have to come in the form of gifts, monetary goods, giving them a big house, or buying them a car. It doesn’t have to be something materialistic. It can just simply be you being there, you spending more time with them. And I can tell you for sure that they are going to appreciate that. They are going to appreciate the fact that you are being there for them.
Sometimes it may not come through right away, especially let’s say you’ve had a period of baggage with your parents. Maybe years of conflict and I know some of you have that.
So let’s say you suddenly turn things around and start contacting them out of the blue or start interacting with them more openly after a period of not doing so. Sometimes there’s a lag time. Maybe they will respond negatively or they will respond nonchalantly or wonder, What the heck are you trying to do? This was what I experienced in the past when I was trying to improve my relationship with my parents.
But in a matter of time, they will start to see what you’re doing, as well as appreciate what you are trying to do here, even if it may not be spoken.
So to you Sumedha, you are 17. You’re so young. I do not know how old your parents are and it doesn’t even matter how old your parents are, to be honest. Because we should not take life for granted. Because any one of us can just disappear and die tomorrow.
The key point I want to mention here is that your parents have not passed away yet. Every moment you feel fearful of them passing on or them not being around anymore, it’s not being in the moment because your parents have not passed away yet!
As long as you are worrying and fearful that they are not around, you’re just putting yourself in this future potential state which is not even here! As opposed to focusing on the fact that your parents are alive, well, with you and asking yourself, “What can I do with them?” and “What can I do for them out of my love for them?”
I would recommend to focus on loving them right now today, every day, in your best own capacity. Not loving them because you have to. But loving them because you want to. As opposed to worrying about what to do, when/if they die because they are not dead yet. The point is that they are still around, they are still with you.
So I’d recommend, to all of you listening right now, brainstorm and come up with a list. This list should comprise two things:
The first thing is, think about what are the things that you have always wanted to tell your parents but you haven’t. This can be something like I love you. I know can sound insane especially for those of us living in the Asian culture. I know if I say “I love you” to my parents they’ll think I’m nuts and I’ve gone wonky.
So what I do instead when I try to say I love you to them, is that I present it in the way that they will understand. This can be in terms of the common lingo that’s used in my family is, “Have you eaten? Have you eaten dinner? Have you had lunch?” This is the common lingo in my family that expresses concern. Now obviously, it can be different from family to family.
Of course, just simply spending time. Let’s say my dad is in the living room and watching TV. For me just sitting there and I can be doing my own work but just having this time together. We might not be talking because my dad isn’t someone who talks a lot. So just spending time with him is my way of expressing love to him which I feel he understands as well.
For my mom, my mom is more articulate. So I make a point to try to call her once a week or once every few days to check on things, how she is doing. I try to go back home as much as possible. But I’m now married and living my own place which is quite far away from where I used to live with my parents. So calling her and this is something I did not do in the past. But over the years it just came naturally. In the past, I would think this is bizarre and strange to just be talking to my mom on the phone. But now we can even be talking for several minutes, 10 minutes, which is long considering we used to not talk. Whereas in the past, it would be like me screaming and shouting and all of us just shouting at each other and that.
So that’s the first thing. Think about things you want to tell your parents. The second thing is to think about the things you want to do with your parents and for them.
The best way to imagine this is to think about the day when your parents pass on. When that happens, what you wish to have done with them, for them? For me, it is my wish to bring my parents on a vacation. Well, it has not materialized at all because my parents simply do not believe in traveling overseas. They simply think that it is a waste of money. And I totally understand and respect that. So my parents are extremely frugal. We come from a low-income family and these views helped shape me and make me someone who is prudent about her expenditures and careful with money and I totally appreciate that. But I also hope that one day, I’ll be able to bring them on a vacation, when they are ready to, when they wish to. And of course when my mom is better and she finishes her cancer treatment and so on.
So that is something that I have in mind when that time comes. But in the meantime before that happens, nowadays I would every few months suggest that all of us, like the whole family — my brother and his girlfriend, and me and Ken and my parents — that we just go out and have a meal. This is something that my parents value. They regard going out for a meal as a celebratory event. So that is something that is in line with their language of love.
So that’s for me. How about for you? What are the things that you want to do with your parents and for them?
For these two particular things, (a) things you want to tell your parents and (b) things you want to do with your parents or for them, think about how you can start working on that right now. Not like a few years down the road or whatever unless there are certain circumstances that you need to put this thing off.
For the things that you are able to act on right now, how can you make that happen right now? Think of this as a natural expression of your love to your parents and then working it as part of your regular routine and your regular self in terms of your interactions with them.
I believe that as you do that more and more, expressing your love — through actions, through words, through the time that you spend with them — you may well find that the fear of losing our parents starts to reduce. That’s because you are now truly embracing and bringing your relationship with your parents higher and higher, to the level it can be.Whereas previously, the fear might have been from a pent-up regret that you may well not get to do/say the things that you want to your parents when they pass on. Now you are actually taking action on this.
Instead of fearing when they pass on, you are appreciating and finding joy and love in the time that you spend with them. And this is the key point here. Not to immerse yourself in guilt, regret or fear, but to immerse yourself in the love you have for parents. Because I believe that part of that fear is stemming from how much you really love them. And then to let this love flourish. Let them know how much you love them. Don’t wait for a later time because sometimes this later time may well not come. And I truly hope that your relationship with your parents will flourish to its highest level. 🙂
So keep me posted on how things go Sumedha. To all of you listening to this, whether your parents are with you or not, I truly believe that our loved ones are with us in spirit, even if they might have left the Earth. So I hope this message gets out to anyone when needs to hear this today.
If you find the podcast helpful in any way, I would really appreciate it if you could give us a great rating on iTunes. That would really support the show and help us reach more people.
So thank you so much for listening. And I look forward to speaking to you guys in the next episode. Bye guys!
End Note: Thanks for listening to The Personal Excellence Podcast. For more tips on how to live your best life, visit www.personalexcellence.co
A palliative nurse who cared for dying patients in the last weeks of their lives took the liberty to record the most common regrets among them. Among these regrets were revealing statements like wishing they didn’t work so hard, wishing they had the courage to express their feelings, and wishing they had stayed in touch with their friends.
I believe people can get striking clarity and wisdom in the last moments of their death. In this episode of The Personal Excellence Podcast, I share the top 5 regrets of the dying, as identified by former palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, and my thoughts and pointers on how we can use this wisdom to better our lives.
PEP 007: Top 5 Regrets of the Dying (and What To Do About Them) PEP 007: Top 5 Regrets of the Dying (and What To Do About Them)
If you've found The Personal Excellence Podcast useful, I'd really appreciate it if you can leave a good rating and review on iTunes. Your review does make a difference and it will help the podcast to grow and spread the message of conscious living to the world. Thank you!
Welcome to the Personal Excellence Podcast, the show that’s all about helping you be your best self and live your best life. Now, your host, Celestine Chua.
Celestine Chua: Hey everyone! Welcome to The Personal Excellence Podcast Episode 7. I’m Celestine Chua from PersonalExcellence.co.
Today’s episode is a different one. I want to talk about the top 5 regrets of the dying, a topic that’s based on an article. Some of you may have read this before, because it’s an article that went viral several years ago. The article is by Bronnie Ware, and she was a palliative nurse who cared for dying patients in the last weeks of their lives.
She penned an article on the top 5 regrets of the dying because after all these years of just caring for patients who were going to past on, she noticed recurring trends in their thoughts, things they wished they did. This could be things like wishing they didn’t work so hard, wishing they had the courage to express their feelings, and so on.
I thought that this would be an insightful topic to talk about today because I believe people get clarity during the last moments of their lives. It puts things into perspective, like things they wished they did or things they wished they didn’t do so much of. It is good to review these to understand what’s on their minds, and also to use this as insight and wisdom to reflect on our lives and whether it’s heading down the path we want.
In today’s podcast, I’m going to be reading snippets from Bronnie’s article, covering the top five regrets of the dying, and sharing my thoughts and perspective on them. At the end of the podcast, I’ll share the link to Bronnie’s article so you can take a look for yourself.
The first regret, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Bronnie says, “This was the most common regret of all when people realized 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 honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to the choices they had made or not made.”
I feel that this is probably something that — fortunately — is starting to fade, the whole notion of feeling that we need to live a life based on other’s expectations. I do feel that it isn’t so dominant in today’s world compared to, say, 20 or 30 years ago. The people whom Bronnie worked with, they were obviously born before most of us here listening to this. They probably grew up with a set of very strong social norms that you need to behave in a certain way or you need to follow certain norms [to be accepted].
That said, there are still many societal expectations that weigh on us today. It can be tricky breaking out of these.
There can also be expectations from our parents, who feel that you need to do certain things or who expect that you take over their business (though, I don’t think it’s very typical now). There could be all these expectations on us that we need to act in a certain way.
Of course, I don’t think it’s about casting these expectations aside and vehemently making a stand and saying, “This is my life. This is what I want. If you don’t agree, if you have other kinds of expectations, then too bad, I’m not going to care about them.” I don’t think it’s like this, though it may well work in certain cases. In some cases, it may well be the only way out. I think it is important to understand the expectations that have been placed on us as well as our responsibilities, especially responsibilities that we want to uphold and integrate them into our decision making.
At the end of the day, it is very important that we understand our needs and wants, and to honor them as we live our best life and not let other people’s expectations cloud over our inner needs and desires. Or even suffocate, conceal, and cover them. For example, maybe you happen to live in a society where there is a very heavy emphasis on money and you’re expected to be in a certain career or reach a certain income to pay for your basic needs. But your real passion is in the arts, and that may not have as good of an income or income potential. Then, maybe it is about finding the path to pursue your passion while still generate a healthy income. This answer may not be before you right now. If it is, it will be clear. It may be a path that you need to craft out yourself and you need to devise. But it all starts by first planning and envisioning.
An example would be when I was in my corporate job. My passion is in personal development and helping others grow. At that time, I was looking around at the possible jobs that I could take on, including NGOs, humanitarian work, etc. Ultimately, I realized that that was no option out there that would fit my needs and passion in the way I was thinking of. It was then about creating my own path that would best fit my passion and needs, and allow me to pursue it and bring it to the highest level. Then I started thinking, Okay, this means that I need to start a business. What would this business look like? I started asking all these questions to myself and planning them. I share more in the article, “Passion or Money.”
Of course, the result was not immediate. I had to take time to plan. Then I had to think, Okay, when do I want to quit? Then starting my business, and doing it full time and putting all my energy into making it work.
All these took years. But it started from first taking the step to craft out my ideal life, to understand and honor that I have my own needs and direction in life. Just because society prizes a certain status or symbol, a certain thing like money, it doesn’t mean that we need to bark up this tree. We need to first understand what our needs are, to respect them, while understanding our other options. Then, work on building this bridge to bring us from where we are now to that ideal path, while not heavily compromising our loved ones’ needs and our responsibilities.
If you have been living a life mainly based on other’s expectations and needs, is it time to just start thinking about yourself? Like for once, to start thinking about your own needs, your wishes, your priorities, your wants? How can you start integrating them into your life now, even with a small baby step or in a small fashion?
The more you do that, the more energy you have, the stronger your spirit, the more you’re able to take on. In the end, following your path is not something that drains you. The more you do that, the more you’re capable of taking on more. It’s just incredible. It’s counter-intuitive, but at the same time, it’s not.
Let’s look at regret number two, “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” How many of you guys can relate to that?
I live in Singapore. In Singapore, there is an immense work culture. I don’t just mean being committed to your work. There is just an obsession with work here. Singapore employees, they have been shown to be some of the most stressed-out workers in the entire world. We are one of the countries that work the most hours in the world. One in five Singapore workers works more than 11 hours a day. Singapore as a country is the most sleep-deprived, if not one of the most sleep-deprived countries in the world.
This comes down to this strong national focus on working just to live, that work is our life. There is little to no concept of self. I don’t think that it’s the fault of the citizens here as much as everyone is trying their best to keep up in this society where the costs of living keep rising. I feel that this whole situation has a lot to do with the policies that are being passed, as well as the unrelenting focus on economic growth by the leaders of the country. Though, that’s a separate thing altogether.
But my point here is that this whole regret of, “I wish I didn’t work so hard,” this is something that rings truer now than ever, especially if you live in an urban city. In urban cities, generally, there is a very heavy work culture, especially in places like New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. To that, it’s important to recognize your priorities in life.
I can understand if, say, you’re single. Naturally, if you are single, most of the time people who are single and living in urban cities, they tend to invest a lot of their energy and self into work because work forms a big part of their identity. But you want to also think about whether this is what you want in your life, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now.
When I was in my 20’s, work was the core of my being. Because like I said, in Singapore, here, work is associated with you, like work equals the person. That is how it goes. Conversations usually go, “Oh, what do you do? What’s your work?” People associate you, your status, and your worth with your occupation, as well as your salary or without knowledge of that, your material possessions.
Growing in such a culture in my 20’s, naturally, work was a core part of myself. Later on, there was my business PE. But PE was different because it was a conscious choice, and PE is based on my life purpose. It is something I am passionate about. I don’t see it as work. It is just something I naturally want to do no matter what happens.
Then I got married several years ago. After that, it helped me see things differently, especially after I started hiring a staff, As “an employer,” I started to really think about how to protect and safeguard my staff’s needs, working hours, and workload, and ensuring that she doesn’t get overloaded or that things are well planned out. That she has a day’s off when she can rest and focus on other priorities, and so on.
It got me thinking as to how I didn’t really get that when I was an employee. Nothing to do with my previous company at all, it was just the whole work culture in my country, and it was or still is, if I may say so, really toxic. The funny thing is that, over here in Singapore, working overtime is totally expected. Immersing yourself in work is a given and you’re looked upon negatively if you don’t do that.
Then being married, I also have to dedicate a part of my time, like spending time with my husband on the weekday nights and then on the weekends. I want to do that. I love him. I want to spend the rest of my life with him. All these things put together make me realize that there’s this implicit assumption here where you devote your whole self to work. There’s just something wrong. Because if say you do that, how are you supposed to have time for your loved ones, your family, your parents, if your parents are around? If your parents are around, they probably don’t have much time left on Earth, in the sense that they are older than us by several decades. Why should we be spending the next few decades devoting the whole time to work when we should be proportioning and managing our time properly so that we have ample time for the people we love and not regret this when they pass on? It doesn’t make sense at all.
How about, say, childbearing. For those of you at the stage where you’re thinking of having a family, it’s very easy to devote yourself to work and then not think about having a child. By the time you are in the space to think about that, maybe it’s already too late because your childbearing years are over.
These are things to give due consideration as opposed to immersing and devoting ourselves to work for whatever reason, whether work defines who you are or whether money is just really important to you. I think that everything in life can be important, but ultimately, we need to decide what the most important things to ourselves. Because you can keep earning money and you can keep getting better and better and work on expanding your portfolio, and all that. If you’re running a business, the sky is the limit. You can do whatever you want. You can keep growing it endlessly.
But we have to bear in mind our biggest priorities at the end of the day. Because we can’t just go in an endless loop where we’re earning money and more money and more money. But does this actually give us the kind of satisfaction that we are looking for in life? Is there an end that we’re working towards? Is there a possibility that in our mad chase for a certain objective that we may be missing out on certain things or we may be neglecting certain things? Something for us to think about.
Regret number three, “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” This is what Bronnie says, “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.”
I’m actually going to be recording a new episode on how to be more assertive in response to a PE reader question. It’ll probably be coming up after this. That will be relevant to this. (Update: The episode is up! How to Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive)
A lot of us were probably scared about expressing ourselves. Maybe because we fear rejection, we fear judgment, and we fear what people would think about us. Maybe we fear that we’ll say something that people, they’ll think that we’re stupid or we say something that they will just toss away or put down.
To that, I think it is important to recognize that ultimately, we cannot control how people will behave. We cannot control how they would react. Because of that, if we are continuously censoring or filtering ourselves because we are fearful of how they would act or react, doing so will only cause us to dim our light. Because there are basically all kinds of people in this world and everyone have different opinions and thoughts. I mean, we have people who are in support of gay marriage. We have people who are not in support of gay marriage. We have people who feel that Trump will be a better president and we have people who feel that Clinton will be a better president. We have people who just think both of them suck. Basically, there are all these different people with different opinions.
If you are constantly fearful of what people will say or respond, and you filter yourself accordingly, you can never win. Because everyone is different. Everyone will have a different response. There will always be people who are going to have a negative response to a particular opinion that you have, which means that you basically can never arrive at a point where people are happy. This is something that I learned for myself after continuously trying to censor myself and feeling that I need to oppress my voice. I just realized that it was just the most important for me to convey what needs to be conveyed through my articles, through my blog. If some people don’t like it, then that’s just too bad.
It’s the same for you. Think about the most important things that matter to you. Allow yourself to have a voice in these things and to express yourself in them.
For example, let’s say if there is someone whom you’re interested in. You don’t necessarily have to go up and say “I love you” because that will be probably crazy, especially if you haven’t really been dating. But you can take little steps, like asking that person out or arranging for some kind of group gathering where both of you can be in it and then go out together and just get to know each other more and interact more. This can be a step towards expressing your feelings, not necessarily in the sense of saying, “Oh, I love you. Do you want to be with me?” but expressing your feelings through all these little actions that can then finally build up to the final point where you convey your feelings directly.
It could be, say, in a relationship if you have certain opinions, and maybe they are not pleasant and you’re worried about expressing them. But if these are things that are important to you, then you need to speak up and talk about them. Looking for the right moment and just sharing them with your partner or with your loved ones or your close friends. If these are important things and if these are people who matter, then they will want to hear what you have to say. Then it will be important for you to express those thoughts and feelings.
I would like to you to apply this from now on. If there’s ever any situation that you feel strongly about, allow yourself to express that, to let your opinions be heard. You can start off on a one-to-one basis. That makes it easy for you to then start expressing your opinions, your feelings to other people.
Regret number four, “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
This regret is interesting because in the previous generation where there wasn’t any social media, Facebook, and so on, it probably was more challenging for people to stay in touch. Then now, we have Facebook and social media, it is so easy to keep in touch, like just being a friend to each other and you can easily see people’s updates through your newsfeed and by clicking over to their profile or just sending over a text message or just adding someone to WhatsApp, and then starting a conversation that way.
The funny thing is that I think this regret can still be relevant in our time.
Now, to this, I think it is important to think about your friends, your friends who are dear to you, the people who have touched you in your life. Just think about them. It could be when you were a teenager, someone who really touched you and played a special role in your life. It could be when you were a young adult or if you are still a young adult, or if you’re not adult yet, then your teenage years, in the adolescence years probably will be more relevant.
But whatever it is, someone who played a special role in your life, who was there for you, and are still there for you when you needed them. People who have been with you through thick and thin. People who lent you a shoulder when you needed that. Or people who just did very small acts for you. It may not mean anything to other people or to them, but it really meant the world to you.
To these people, just start to make a special effort in keeping in touch with them. Maybe just send an SMS to them like right now. You can pause this podcast and just send a text message to them just to check with them like how they are doing, just to send some good wishes and so on. Or you can send an email to them or even Facebook message them and just start a connection. Make this a habit. Make this an ongoing thing.
I always make a point to message my friends every once in a while just to check on them and see how they are doing. Remember never to let the circumstances, like whether you are in a different country or whether you’re busy with life’s agendas and work agendas because we are always busy with something, whisk you away from keeping in touch with your dearest friends.
We move to the last regret, regret number five, “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
Does this ring true with any of you? “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” The funny thing is that even though we are in a world today where we are relatively more affluent as a civilization, as a population, even though there are more shiny objects now than ever, more material things, more flashy things, I feel that in a way some of us are not necessarily happier.
I see a lot of these coming up in terms of social ills. It can be, say, cyberbullying, people bullying other people. So you have the victims. For the bullies, I always feel that if someone is releasing or enacting anger or violence, and it can be emotional violence towards someone else, then that person probably isn’t happy at all.
We have gun violence. We have shootings, mass shootings. Even in countries where it’s supposed to be safe, you don’t necessarily see people being happy. Again, in Singapore, I think if you just take the public transport, you can actually see that many people are very, very stressed out. Most people, if not all, actually have eye bags reflecting — I mean, of course, for some people, they just genetically have eye bags. It’s not like I’m saying that eye bags are bad. I’m just saying that it also depicts that people are sleep deprived, or they are trying to sleep but they are having insomnia or not able to have quality sleep. Where people are just being bogged down with all these stresses of life and expectations, societal expectations, people’s expectations of us who we should be, what we should do, and all these endless responsibilities.
I feel that a lot of these are just self-created. When I mean self-created, I’m not saying that it’s your fault. I’m saying self-created like human-created. Because maybe you have sudden stresses, and these stresses could be created by the people who create the policies or made the society this way, which could be people from several generations ago or it could be the policymakers today.
And it’s just sad. It’s sad because why does life have to be this way? Why do we have to put ourselves in these vicious cycles putting the pressure on people to do certain things, putting the pressure on ourselves to be a certain way? And at the end of the day, just mad chasing certain goals? At the end of the day, just not being as happy as we can be?
I feel it all starts with us and making shifts within. Recognizing that happiness is literally a choice. You may have the worst of circumstances right now. I’m not saying that all of us can just automatically be happy if we want to because some of us may well be in dire states or we may be in terrible circumstances. If you happen to be in such a situation right now, my heart goes out to you. I truly hope that you can recover and get well soon from whatever is the circumstance you’re currently facing. But I’m saying that happiness is a choice, should we be in a luxury where we can potentially contemplate and consider the viability of happiness in our state.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about Viktor Frankl. He has already passed on. But he was a psychiatrist, as well as a Holocaust survivor. Pardon my language, but he was through a lot of crazy shit. He spent years of his life in concentration camps. He spent a part of his life working as a slave laborer. It was in the concentration camps where his father, his mother, his brother, and his wife died. He had really been through basically some of the worst things that a man could ever experience in today’s world.
He had a very interesting insight, which is that after all these suffering in the concentration camps, he arrived at the conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning. Therefore, even suffering is meaningful. This conclusion serves as a strong basis in his own teachings.
Here, I want to share an excerpt from his Wikipedia page, which shares an account of his experience he had while working in the harsh conditions of the Nazi concentration camps and how he was able to find meaning despite the extreme suffering.
Here, Viktor is sharing this very harsh condition and suffering he was experiencing in one of the many moments in the concentration camps. Still, he was able to find bliss in that moment. In this example, he was talking about how it was through thinking about his wife, and through his love and his bond with his wife that actually helped him to find bliss amidst that physical torture and suffering.
But the essence here isn’t so much as saying, “Oh, you need to find a partner, a relationship, and be in a relationship before you can find bliss,” I hope that’s not what you’re getting from this. It certainly isn’t that key message.
The point here is that as Viktor says in this quote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lie our growth and our freedom.” I think this is basically what Viktor was trying to say. We may have the worst circumstances with us right now. But the point is that our physical or external suffering at this moment, it doesn’t have to be linked with our emotional state. Because between this external experience and our internal emotions, there is actually a space. This space is basically our choice and our internal processing on how we wish to interpret this set of external circumstances and what we choose to make out of it. From that, then deciding, emoting, and feeling those emotional responses.
Here, I’m not talking about situations involving grief. I think if you’re coping with grief at this moment, then it is important to feel that grief, to process it, and not let it be stuck in you. But, say, in a general circumstance, and you’re experiencing problems, very pressing problems and difficult problems. There is a space between these problems and our own emotions and our own thoughts. It is about how we choose to interpret these circumstances and make the best out of them as supposed to continuing to suffer in these situations.
Does it mean that we should just be happy for the sake of being happy and just keep smiling and laughing regardless of the problems and then just continue living our life? No, that is not what I’m trying to say. I’m saying that even in the most difficult of circumstances, we can choose happiness, and most important of all that we take action to resolve these situations to elevate and move ourselves to a higher place rather than letting these problems perpetuate.
Whatever is the issue you’re facing right now, maybe it’s a job-related issue. See whether you can talk to your boss, or your coworkers and see how you can resolve that. Or let’s say you’re in a job that you hate. Start looking for a new job. You don’t have to quit right away and understand that we need our jobs to survive. But you can start looking for new opportunities, new options, just talking to people, understanding what are the options out there. Or maybe it is a relationship or friendship issue. It is something that you want to talk to your partner and your friend. Is it a family issue? Then do you want to involve your family members and sort of like work through this together?
Just remember that this regret, “I wish that I had let myself be happier,” this shouldn’t be a regret that you take with you to your grave. It’s the same for all the other 4 regrets: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” “I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings.” “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
These are all things that we can start working on now. We can start to choose happiness. If you’re facing certain issues, we can start working on them now.
All these things start from now. I don’t want you to live the next 10 years, 20 years, and 30 years of your life and then look back and wonder, “Where did that time go?” I want you to start living this life truest to you, and that at the end of your life, when you are on your deathbed, that you can look back and know that you have lived this life true to yourself, that you have lived a life well lived, you have really done your best, and you can look back with pride.
This is the life I want you to live. If you think now when you are on your deathbed, breathing your last breath, what is the kind of life you would want to have lived? What would you want to have done by then? What would you want your life to be like looking back?
Think about all these things. Then start making these happen at this very moment. Whatever it is, happiness, being close with friends, having a great social life, prioritizing your health, having a job that you love, etc. These are things that we shouldn’t be contingent upon circumstances or things that you only need do or work on 5, 10, 20 years from now. These are things that you can start doing now.
It may well not be something that happened overnight. It doesn’t have to be something that is effected overnight. But it can be something that you start, just taking a tiny step towards it right now. You’ll find that as you do that that your life becomes richer, more emotionally fulfilling, that you start really appreciating and loving life. And you start seeing things in a different spectrum that you have never really seen. Because what it means to live life to the fullest isn’t really the end state you’re at or which point you’re at, as much as you are constantly progressing and moving forward. That is what it means to live every day to its fullest. Because you’re actively making your life today the best day you can ever live.
If you like to read Bronnie’s article, you can check it out here. I would also like you to check out my article, 7 Limiting Beliefs Keeping You from Living Your Best Life. There, I share seven major limiting beliefs I observed amongst people. These beliefs may be beliefs that you’re aware are there or you know you’re not aware that they are subconscious and they certainly prevent us from living to our fullest potential. I outlined how to bust these beliefs.
I have another article, 10 Timeless Principles for Lasting Happiness. These are 10 timeless tips on being happy. These are principles that I apply myself to keep a positive state. If you tend to deal with little setbacks each day or each week, I have some tips for you to deal with them. You can read my article, 10 Tips to Deal with Daily Setbacks.
If you have found today’s podcast helpful, I would truly appreciate it if you could leave a positive review and rating on iTunes. Every review truly means a lot to me. I want to thank all of you who have been leaving reviews. All of these help in letting new listeners, like people who have not listened or downloaded the PE Podcast before, or even check out PE before, help them know whether this podcast is worth downloading, whether it’s something that they should check out. The reviews really go a long way in helping us reach out to more people and help them in their lives.
Thank you so much for listening. Truly an honor and privilege to be here speaking to you. I look forward speaking to you guys in the next episode. Bye guys!
End Note: Thanks for listening to The Personal Excellence Podcast. For more tips on how to live your best life, visit www.personalexcellence.co