True or False?
A man’s success is determined by his net worth.
A man’s success is measured by how well he provides for his family materially.
A man’s success is equated with how much power and influence he wields in the world.
A man’s success is based on how much he produces.
A man’s success depends on how smart, formally educated and clever he is.
How many of these did you answer true? How many false?
Beyond arguments of right and wrong for any of these statements, which statements have had the most impact in your life? Which ones most influenced your decisions about how you’ve spent or are spending your lifetime?
I believe that our ideas of what constitutes success literally become the blueprint for how we make our life decisions and lead our lives. The blueprint formed by the statements above is one that becomes programmed early in a boy’s life and for most men becomes the very basis of their lives. I know these statements have had an impact on how I view myself and other men.
Is there really any other way to look at what makes for success in a man’s life?
In the film, Bucket List, with death knocking at their doors, two older guys conspire to do what they had not yet done, the list mostly consisting of physical feats and things, stuff they may have put off while busy following societal scripts for success and being responsible adults.
In contrast, a palliative care nurse in Australia discovered a different kind of bucket list when she counseled dying patients in their last 12 weeks on earth. There was no mention of more sex or skydiving. Instead she asked about and heard common regrets. Among the top regrets for men was, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
Here are the top five regrets in a nutshell.
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 realize 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 half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
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 realize 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 realize 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."
If this retrospective laser clarity can appear at the end of a man’s life, why not sooner, why wait until it’s too late to realize real fulfillment? Why not define success for yourself now and live that at whatever age you are?
The most profoundly simple and powerful process I know for that is The Passion Test. It’s given me deep confirmation of what is most important and what brings me the most happiness in my life. It then gives me a baseline from which to begin living that way from where I am, one step at a time. It has given me and tens of thousands of others a way to define success on their own terms in the face of old blueprints, old scripts of what others have told them about success and how their worth is measured.
The question is: Are you ready to trade the “comfort of familiarity”, old stories, patterns and habits referred to by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware for a life filled with even more happiness and success (on your terms) than you may have imagined?
I welcome you to join me for an hour of that self-discovery. I have my wife and business partner Karin Lubin take me through the process at the end of each year and beginning of the next. And I do the same for her. Having someone ask you questions so you can listen to your own heart’s answers is profound.
And finally this from the new book by 88 year old pop and jazz singer Tony Bennett, Life Is A Gift: The Zen of Tony Bennett
"Shed the idea of competition, and of being the best. Instead, desire to improve only by being yourself."
"If you follow your passion, you'll never work a day in your life."
Bronnie Ware recorded her patient’s dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood (a NY Times best-seller that has stayed at the top of Amazon lists for years)
NEW! Your Hidden Riches: Unleashing the Power of Ritual to Create a Life of Meaning and Purpose by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood with Sylva Dvorak, PH.D Recently released and already a NY Times best-seller Your Hidden Riches reaffirms the value of the principles and process of The Passion Test inside a treasure trove of rituals for making your ideal life come true one ritual at a time.