Albert Schweitzer, a doctor, an academic, a philosopher, and a humanitarian said, “Live richer and happier lives by living for others.” The harder part that Schweitzer speaks of is that to live for others, we must overcome our natural human desire to put ourselves first and to fight back whenever we feel an injustice has been enacted against us. Acting in a selfless manner every day is one of the hardest things for humans to do. Behavioral analyst, Wayne Kehl asserts that as human beings are imperfect and they all live in an imperfect world but if they choose to accept the world and the people on it for what they are, while living to be of service and solace to others, our lives will be gloriously enriched. He said instead of living for ourselves and taking things that others do personally, we will serve ourselves and others well by taking a pause before a negative reaction and asking ourselves, “Is it worth it? Or...will negativity make the situation better?” When you are able to answer NO to both of those questions you will be on the pathway to living for others and your life will be on the verge of being richer and happier.
Some four months back, I attended a seminar and spoke to a lady (aged late forties) during the break. She said she spends a lot time time helping others. Then I ask her, what is her motivation for helping others. She said to get away from her own family problems.
When you have terminal illness then how do you chose to live? Put self interest first or other people's interest first? A palliative nurse has recorded the top five regrets of the dying and they are:
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The nurse said "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."
Many times, I find myself in conflict. To fulfill the unfulfilled dreams is a selfish action. I like to do something for myself. Even with terminal illness, I feel the restriction. I have to think of other people's feeling because some of the things I want to do, they would not approve of it. Yet to lead a meaningful life that is acceptable to many, I may have to give up some of my dreams. Why? Not just because some of the unfulfilled dreams are mutually exclusive, but also of the health and time factor. I no longer have health and time. I have to chose. According to Dr Gordon Livingston, a psychiatrist, in an effort to seem closer to our ideal selves we all employ some level of deceit in constructing the narrative of our lives. It is common to invent a story of ourselves that contains examples of admirable behavior. We want to look good and have people to approve of our behavior. This is how we are brought up and how society around us expect us to behave. This is not to say we blame other people for our own woes. To live the way we want, we need to have courage to change. We need to be brave. We need to go against the norm. Yet it's so easier said than done. Otherwise it won't be the top regret of dying.