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Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. And today you are in for such a treat because I have on an author who wrote a book I’ve mentioned many times before. If you’re interested in living a regret-free life, this is a must watch.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian author, an international speaker, and a songwriter. Her bestselling first book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, touched hearts all over the world with translations in 27 languages. Bronnie’s next book, Your Year for Change, is also in many translations. As well as being an author, Bronnie became a late in life mother and is a master of balance, conscious choice, saying no, and regret free living. Bronnie has released 2 albums of original songs and her third book is due to be released in the fall of 2016.
Bronnie, thank you so much for being here on MarieTV.
It’s my pleasure, absolute pleasure.
So I know you’ve heard we’ve talked about your book several times on the show, so it’s such an honor to actually get to talk to you about the whole process. So let’s go back, you know, you had the opportunity to be with so many souls through your work in palliative care. How quickly did you start to notice some common threads in the regrets?
It was certainly within the first year.
Yeah. So I worked on and off for 8 years with dying people, so quite soon. Yeah. Quite soon into the journey. It was like, “Hang on, I’ve… I’ve had this conversation before. What’s… what’s going on here?”
And did you start writing things down or taking notes?
Well, I always kept a journal anyway and because my patients were often asleep or resting, I had a lot… lot of long hours. So I would just write in a journal, not having any idea that it was actually a future book coming together. It was more just about my life and how it was being influenced by the people I was looking after individually. So, yeah, I just kept writing and… and over time I found myself writing similar things, you know, as well as having those similar conversations.
So… and what was the journey like? So you did all of this incredible work and then take us to the point where you were inspired to write the blog post.
I’d just finished working with dying people. I was in a place where I really wanted to work where there was some hope and obviously, you know, once people are dying, they’re on their last chapter. So I’d managed to set up a songwriting program in a women’s jail and an editor for a magazine asked me to write an article about that, about how the songwriting course came about. And so I was teaching guitar and songwriting to female inmates at the time and when I wrote that article I thought, “This is crazy. I love writing. You know, why aren’t I writing more? I’ll start a blog.” And so I thought, “Well, what do I write about?” And I got some very clear guidance, “Just write what you know.” And I thought, “Ok, well, you know, I’ve just finished working with dying people. I’ll write about that time in my life.” And so I just sat down with… with really no forethought at all and just thought, “Ok, well, how has it affected me the most? Why, you know, what have I learned from the dying people the most?” And straight away it was regrets and I thought, “Oh, of course,” you know. “It’s been shaping my life for the last 8 years.” And, yeah, so I ended up writing the article based on my old notes but also just on my memory of the conversations, posted the article, and then for about 6 months it sat. It had a little bit of movement here and there where people asked to share it and then about 6 months later it just went… and I wasn’t ready for that sort of publicity 6 months earlier. So I was growing into that readiness for it and… and then in time that grew into a book and… yeah. The rest is history.
Yeah. So was it shared about 3 million times?
In the first year it was shared 3 million. In the first 2 or 3 years it was well over 8 million views. Yes.
Yes, yeah. It’s hard to comprehend, really.
And what were some of the notes and the letters that you were getting from people? Because it’s… I mean, the ideas and the concepts are very simple but they hit you right in the heart and for so many of us, myself included, it resonates as the truth.
Yes. Yeah. And I think that’s what… what happened is it did resonate with so many, but I think the simplicity of it was part of the appeal and that it gives people permission to actually make those choices because it’s not just someone else telling them, it’s… it’s dying people who have… who were walking their talk. You know, they had the regret at the end. And… and it was so, so strong, the message. So I think it was mostly about just the simplicity of it and the permission to let it go for the reader. Yeah.
I’m curious, when you were actually hearing those regrets, as you’re a sensitive soul, you’re a creative soul, was it hard emotionally to be there and stand there and care for these people at the same time have so much emotion that you’re absorbing and listening to?
The… the level of anguish and frustration that the dying people shared, expressed while they were sharing these regrets, was impossible not to be affected by. But I also had to trust that that was their life path and at least they were learning those things at the end. And some of them made me promise that I would share their wisdom on so that people would learn from their mistakes. So if anything I just felt very honored and… and grateful to be that messenger and to also have the lesson given to me repeatedly so that I was actually incorporating it into my own life. I couldn’t teach it without walking it myself, so if anything it was… as heartbreaking as it often was for me, there were plenty of tears in the bathroom with the door closed during those years, but as difficult as that was it was also far more an honor than anything to work in that role.
Let’s take a look at regret number one, which is so powerful. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. And I was so moved by Grace’s story, specifically when she said, “I mean it. Promise this dying woman that you will always be true to yourself, that you will be brave enough to live the way you want to, regardless of what other people will say.”
Yeah. Grace still affects me on a day to day basis. You know, not always consciously but… but those months with her were certainly life changing. And she had stayed… she’d stayed in a marriage that was very unhappy and then as soon as her husband went into a nursing home she was diagnosed with terminal illness and it was quite aggressive. So all of the dreams that she’d put on hold thinking maybe she’d get some freedom at some stage in her life were gone. There was nothing she could do about it. And she was just a little, really small lady but she was… she was fierce in her… her resolution and her determination to make me promise her. And, she… yeah, her regret was… was so tangible. It was shocking. Yeah.
And did you hear those similar kind of words from so many of the other people?
Over and over and over. Just, “Do your own thing, love. Don’t listen to what other people say. I wish I hadn’t done this. I wish I hadn’t done that.” You know, it’s… it came from all different angles and men and women. Just all different circumstances, but really in a nutshell the same message over and over and over and over. Yeah.
And then regret number 2, which is one that I think will resonate not only with our culture right now but especially for entrepreneurs and hardcore creatives.
The regret I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Goodness gracious. Every time I pick up your book, I look at the blog post, because I do look at it often because I just feel like it’s so important to be…
…reminded of these ideas. And John’s story is something that I don’t think anyone watching this show couldn’t relate to. When he says, you know, “Don’t create a life where you’re going to regret working too hard.” He said, “Even though I didn’t know I was gonna regret it, deep in my heart I knew I was working too hard.” And I think there’s so much wisdom in that.
On one level you don’t think you’re gonna regret it. But there’s a small voice inside, isn’t there? When we’re pushing too hard and you can start to feel a soulful tug. I know I’ve experienced it at times where I’m being really hard on myself, trying to push, trying to make something happen, trying to meet a deadline and I can feel Josh or I can, you know, Kuma will come up and, you know, animals do the…
…pawing you kind of thing. And I can feel like a little part of my soul going, “Put the work down.” So I’m just curious if you have anything else to add.
Well, it… it is, you know, so many of us love our work and so it’s not about not loving your work and… and we can get really caught up in it and just get, you know, carried along. And… but there’s no point of success if there’s not balance with it because work isn’t our whole life and there is that little voice. So as much as we can get caught up in the busyness or the… the enjoyment, the striving of it, there is that little voice that will say, “Oh, hang on a sec. This is…” and we can suppress it, but eventually we’re either going to have to honor that voice or have that regret. Because there’s so much more to life than our work and it’s wonderful when the two become one, when you love your work so much it’s a huge part of your life, but there are plenty of other aspects in our lives that really deserve a lot of attention as well. And sometimes that’s just being and turning off the phone and sitting at the beach or going for a walk. Just acknowledging that… that it’s ok to switch off from work and give some solid time to other important aspects of our lives.
After you’ve been able to share this message now with millions and millions of people, how has it informed your day to day choices? Did you make any big choices that you feel like because of these regrets, because you know them and you’ve written them and you shared them that you found yourself at a crossroads where you could go one way or the other and this helped inform…?
There’s… I can’t count how many decisions I’ve made based on this and how many small and large crossroads. But if I’m faced with a decision that takes a lot of courage and I find that courage now because I think, “Ok, I can go this way, it might be the easy way, or I can go this way. It feels harder, scarier or whatever, but this is actually where I want to go.” And I think, “I’m either gonna regret this or I’m not, you know, which… which way causes no regrets?” The hard way, the challenging way, face the courage way. And so you do become more and more courageous, you know, as you start using this as a tool for living, you know, using the wisdom from the dying as a tool for living. And so many decisions I make, even small decisions now, ultimately they’re affected, they’ve been shaped by these regrets. Because if it’s not going to feel good for me, I don’t do it anymore. I just… I say no to way more than I say yes to. I… I love yes, don’t worry. I, you know, I love the word yes, but I’ve learned to comfortably say no to so many things without guilt, without explanation, just because I know there’s other things that will feel better for me and that no one’s really at a loss if I say no. It doesn’t matter, you know, we have to follow our own heart’s calling and that heart’s calling ends up benefiting everyone in the long run anyway.
Do you feel like your intuition has gotten stronger?
Yes. Yeah, it’s a guiding light.
Because you probably hear it and listen to it more perhaps than you did in the past.
Well, that’s right. Yeah. I often think about the Buddhist quote, the heart knows no questions, the mind knows no answers. And I think all of us have been shaped by, you know, we try and reason with logic in our mind but the more we can actually follow our heart, which is our intuition and, you know, our… our longing, then the louder it speaks. In fact, it starts singing after a while, it doesn’t just speak.
Yes! I often feel like mine is so loud, like, I cannot ignore it.
And it’s pretty visceral.
Fantastic. Well, thank goodness you did.
Thank goodness you did for all of us.
And I will say too, and I just wanted to say how deeply honored I am that you’re a B-Schooler in the B-School community. Clearly you were very successful before, but when I found that out my heart cracked open and I was like, “What a pillar of the world,” and we have the honor of being connected in that way as well.
Oh, yes. It was wonderful when I realized you were connected to my work in the same way. And B-School has brought some of the most gorgeous women into my life and locally I just have the most wonderful tribe. And we’re all B-Schoolers, there’s no… no competition, we’re all lovingly supporting each other’s journey. If any of them have similar career paths they collaborate rather than compete and it’s all thanks to you, Marie. So B-School is a positive place.
I… that is so lovely to hear because I think one of the things many of us are starving for in this day and age is a sense of community and connection and I talk about that with my friends a lot. Because no matter how wonderful technology is and it forms these beautiful connections, in some ways it can feel very isolating as well.
And so I love, love, love to hear that. You know, you write something so beautiful. You say, “The piece each of these dear people found before their passing is available now. Without having to wait until your final hours, you have the choice to change your life, to be courageous, to live a life true to your heart, one that will see you past without regret.” Bronnie, what’s the closing thought you’d like to leave us with today?
That it’s ok to be happy and it’s ok to live the life your heart calls you to.
Thank you so much. You’re a beautiful, beautiful human being and thank you for putting this work into the world.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much, Marie.
Now Bronnie and I would love to hear from you. What was the biggest insight that you’re taking away from today’s episode? As always, the richest discussions happen after the episode over at MarieForleo.com, so go there and leave a comment now. Did you like this video? If so, subscribe to our channel and I would be so grateful if you shared this one with your family and friends. And if you want even more great resources to create a business and life that you love, plus some personal insights from me that I only get to share in email, come on over to MarieForleo.com and sign up for email updates. Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams, because the world needs that special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for watching and I’ll catch you next time on MarieTV.