Life is precious, and sweet, and short. While we busy ourselves with the details of getting through the day, our lives are rolling by. No one knows this more than Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who worked in palliative care with patients at the end of their lives. As she spoke with her patients, she heard the same regrets coming up over and over again. She recorded the top five on her blog, and even wrote a book about them.
As I read the regrets, I found myself thinking about how freelancing gives us the opportunity to bypass some of the most common regrets—if we do it right. By reclaiming our work lives, we can live in a way that is better aligned with the big picture of what it means to be truly alive.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I’ve found that freelancing is a powerful vehicle for discovering who you are. As captains of our ships, we are in the beautiful position of creating and living lives that are true to ourselves—our values, our priorities, our vision.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This is a tricky one because the ebb and flow of freelancing means that sometimes we’re working really hard. But, freelancing also provides a freedom that allows us to take off in the middle of the day for a beach stroll, or take time off when we’re feeling burned out, or work around spending time with family and friends rather than trying to squeeze them in around a work schedule. The key here is to use this freedom to our advantage.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
This is deep. On the one hand, as freelancers we get to express ourselves all day long through our work, our client interactions, our community involvement. But this regret speaks to a much deeper level of being tuned in to our innermost thoughts and feelings—things that require a bit more work and soul-searching. But, as we reclaim our lives, we have a precious opportunity to connect, honor, and express our authentic selves.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
Superficial Facebook “likes” aside, staying in touch with old friends takes effort, time, and, ideally, being in the same place occasionally. Being location independent freelancers means that we can take off and visit old friends, we can make time in our schedules to connect, and we can create a career that includes keeping in touch with friends, both new and old.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This, for me, is the highpoint of freelancing. It still comes as a bit of a revelation that work doesn’t have to be something that I drag myself to and from every day, whether I feel like going or not. Work can be fulfilling, and challenging in all the right ways, and full of joy. Work can be a path to happiness rather than something that we try to work happiness in around. I’m grateful every day for the happiness that being a freelancer brings.
Freelancing isn’t for everyone. But, for those of us who it resonates with, it is an incredible tool of liberation and discovering our purpose. If we do it right, it can not only help us avoid major life regrets, it can lead us toward a deeply fulfilling life.
Photo: Rachel Kramer (CC-BY)