Deathbed Regrets: Living a Life True to Yourself – not the Life Others Expect of You

No regrets? Wouldn’t you like to have no regrets when your time in this life is up? What is one of the main regrets people do have on their deathbeds? Listen to find out and to see how by not doing this you are more likely to reach your dreams.


Welcome to the Career Clarity Podcast with Lorie Roberts where we dive into the topics of finding and following your purpose and passion. Intended to help you feel renewed, reenergized and inspired to finally have the career of your dreams.

So glad you could join me on my first podcast.  I am so excited to be sharing my purpose, mission and message with you.  I will talk a little more about that in a moment.

First I want to tell you about Bonnie Ware.  Bonnie was a palliative care nurse.  Bonnie noticed over an 8 year period of working with people who were on their deathbed that the same regrets kept resurfacing.  The most common regret was: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

She says: “This was the most common regret of all. When people realise 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 honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise until they no longer have it.”

So this is what I want to talk about today.  Living a Life True to Yourself – not the Life Others Expect of You.   Being true to ourselves is something that most of us find difficult.

The reason why it is the number one regret is because of our conditioning from all of the expectations and influences around us.

We have parental expectations – what our parents think we should or shouldn’t do – I’m sure many can relate to that, of course their intentions were good, they wanted us to have security and a good future but this can be at the expense of what we really want.

There are also cultural expectations – what society expects from us because of our race, our gender, how we look.  I remember when I was a teenager starting high school and I was filling out the paperwork to choose my classes.  I wanted to take some shops and my older sister said to me “girls don’t take shops” so I didn’t.  She would not say that now, but at the time, she as much as I, was influenced by what the expectations of our gender roles were.

Our schools and teachers certainly influence us – I remember one of my middle-aged clients from a career change course I was teaching.  He had previously owned an auto repair shop and although he was the owner, he stated that he always let his front desk person handle customers and stayed in the background because he had been told by a high school career counsellor that his assessments showed he was not a people person.  This took everyone in the course by surprise because he was a really nice and friendly and an active participant in the group.  It was obvious everyone liked him and he got along well with everyone.  He came to realize that he had been selling himself short based on that counsellor’s words many years ago.

Our religious upbringing is, of course, also an influence on how we believe we should be and behave in society.  My dad used to say cleanliness is next to Godliness.  Not that I believe in being a slob, but he took it to an extreme when I would go visit him (my parents were divorced) and he had plastic on his couch. (which was, of course, his reaction to his upbringing).  Because of this message I ended up taking it to an extreme and would not want people to come into my house unless it was spotless… I have since relaxed after having 3 boys… an impossible situation to always have a spotless house unless you want to always be stressed and on their case … and I realized that by being that extreme I was keeping people away.  Besides and more importantly it’s not who I am… I still like a clean house, but I am more relaxed and laid back about my house now.

So all this to say that we have a lot of influences and expectations laid on us from the time we are born. And this makes it a challenge to be able to both listen and follow what we feel and want.  It actually gets drowned out so much that we lose touch with what we prefer and value for our own life.  We can get to the point where we aren’t really able to differentiate anymore between what we really want and what we think we should want in life.  We may not even realize this – we just automatically take on what we have been conditioned to believe.

A clue to this is if we “should” on ourselves a lot if you know what I mean.  I should do this, I should do that.  And then we beat ourselves up when we don’t live up to our own expectations of ourselves. We often have the biggest sticks for ourselves.

Also when we are not being true to ourselves we often feel a lot of obligation.  We are usually not doing things because they uplift us, make us happy necessarily, give us a sense of purpose or meaning, we do them because we feel that we should, have to, don’t have a choice.

But what happens is that the true us tries to get our attention.  It may show up as a gnawing kind of feeling, as a sense that there is something more, but not really being able to put our finger on it, we could have a desire to break away from things and people in our life, it could be a stronger feeling causing us emotional pain leading to depression, and / or addictions to try to drown out how we are feeling. When we hold in the feelings, along with mental health difficulties, it also leads to physical health problems.  We feel stressed and make ourselves sick by not being true to ourselves.

So earlier I said I was excited about sharing my purpose, mission and message with you.  Of course, the content of these podcasts are part of all of that.  But I would also like to share a bit now about how I came to know my purpose, mission and message and will share more on later podcasts.

I am not a big believer anymore in discussing the past, so I will not spend too much time on it, although having said that, part of my story was being able to learn how to express my thoughts and emotions. It was very important to my healing and getting clear on who I was and what I wanted.  I just had a sense from a young age that many of the things I was told in my family, culture, and church, did not apply to me.  They were not true for me.  They did not feel right for me.

But, because I was fearful of the consequences and because I did love my family, many times I did my best to conform. Meanwhile, there was abuse, abandonment, divorce, substance abuse and attempted suicide that happened in my family. I reacted to this conformity and trauma by becoming a very unhappy, angry person who also turned to substance abuse to feel better and literally ran away from my home.

After becoming a single mom I was desperate for a better life for myself and my son and 32 years ago I reached out for help.  I found people and groups who helped me change my life.  I returned to school and started helping others in the fields of addictions, mental health and career services.  I learned to get clear on who I was, and what I wanted and to listen to my own inner guidance.  I found the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Not that this is a one time deal. Lol, I have had challenges along the way in remaining true to myself.  For example one of my biggest ongoing lessons has been being in a relationship and allowing the other person to be who they are, even when I have different ideas about how they should be sometimes, while I also stay in integrity with myself.

So what is it that you want?  During my 25 years helping people with career change, many people had difficulty answering that question.  My clients would say, I want to look forward to waking up every day.  Many middle age people have said to me jokingly, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  If you believe there is a grain of truth in every joke people make about themselves then you would see that people are saying, I never had a chance to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.

So when I start asking people questions about who they are and what they want, people say, “You are making me think.”  Really they do.  How many of us have really taken the time to ask ourselves who am I and what do I really want?  Besides all of the expectations, we have placed on us. We are also told that we shouldn’t be selfish, we should think about others, it is better to give than receive… so when I ask what you want, it rubs up against these beliefs.  And they are beliefs because most of us have this same cultural conditioning and even when we intellectually understand differently we still have a hard time putting ourselves and our dreams first.

So in my upcoming podcasts, I am going to talk about how we change this because it definitely can be changed.  How do we start listening to ourselves and getting more clear about who we are and what we want?  Unless we can listen and discover who we are, we cannot be clear about our purpose, mission and message in life or be able to share these with the world.

Thanks for listening to this episode, I hope you enjoyed it.  You will find out more about me and my services and be able to access some freebies at

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