The fact that you are here reading this suggests that you have realized this by now – but we want to make sure there is no doubt left in your mind.
This post intends to share with you exactly how freelancing can help you to avoid the common regrets of the dying.
In a previous post we shared a statistic, that by 2020 HALF of the US workforce would be freelancing – we want to make sure that you are one of them.
Why should you freelance?
Because it is so liberating. Sure, you get to do what you love – but it goes even further than that.
Freelancing can bring about a deep satisfaction with life that we will discuss shortly, but first lets look at why the alternatives are so unsatisfying.
In all areas of work people occasionally experience that Sunday night feeling. This can be in freelancing too…but if that’s the case then you are the one responsible. So, if you are already freelancing and feel this dread on a regular basis then you may want to check out our Upwork.com Starter Kit
Why Do So Many People Feel Unsatisfied With Their Work?
In Roman Krznaric’s book, How to Find Fulfilling Work, he quotes that at least 50% workers in the Western World are unhappy with their job…and if given opportunity to start over 60% would choose different career.
Krznaric says that this is partly because we have much higher expectations than others had in the past. We are all relatively affluent and our basic needs are met. That would probably have been enough to keep our grandparents happy.
Perhaps it is a symptom of the technologically advanced world that we can compare our lives with others, or see other options that appear to suit us better. Then again, when we look at our basic needs through the lens of Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, we can see that it is natural to strive for more than the bottom rung.
According to Wikipedia, “Maslow used the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belongingness” and “love”, “esteem”, “self-actualization”, and “self-transcendence” to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through.”
We are unsatisfied therefore because we are looking for more than just the physiological basics and safety in our lives. We want self esteem, and more, which can come from a feeling of purpose and fulfilling work.
Money and status are just not enough. For one thing, there is no clear relationship between happiness and money. And status is a never ending pursuit – sure it is great to be promoted, but there is always another promotion to reach for.
When your future is mapped out by an organization, your growth limited by the opportunities that they provide, it is easy to feel trapped and unfulfilled.
The Top Deathbed Regrets
We won’t deny that this sounds a bit morbid, but avoiding deathbed regrets should be the ultimate criteria when it comes to making decisions about how to spend your life. We are all guilty of acting like there are a constant string of tomorrows and sometimes we have to have a reality check before we begin taking real action that matters to us.
Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse recorded the dying epiphanies of many of her patients in a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. These can be extremely humbling, and thankfully we still have time to take action to avoid them.
“When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” Ware says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
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 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 realize, until they no longer have it.”
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.”
As a freelancer, you have the opportunity to use this profound wisdom to shape your life into one where you don’t look back with remorse about how you spent your precious time.
How Can We Avoid These Regrets?
The way we see it, we have two main choices available to us if we want to avoid looking back on our lives with self-reproach.
- Lower our expectations and fully accept our basic lot.
- Live our best life – with fulfilling work – even if it might be a challenge!
If you chose option 2 then read on. It means you have to accept potential financial risk at times, probable extra hours at times, no holiday pay, no sick pay, no promotions – and also no limits. 🙂
Living Your Best Freelance Life
Freelancing can be fulfilling beyond your most extravagant dreams, you have the power to make it so. Of course, you have the opportunity to do what you truly love, which enables you to work in a state of flow.
Flow = total focus and concentration. when you become so absorbed in activity and forget everything else.
This is very important, but beyond that, there are 6 other ways that freelancing can bring you a life of fulfilment, the first 5 of which are taken directly from the deathbed regrets.
1. Be True To Yourself
As a freelancer you get to make the decisions that most align with your morals and goals. This includes the overall strategy and also your day to day choices.
You control everything in your business, including who you want as a client, who you want in your team, how heavy your workload will be each day and even who you will choose as a customer.
Being true to yourself also means developing to your full potential. You can choose to make learning your lifestyle, always building on what you know, polishing your skills – and thereby enhancing your earning potential too.
2. Don’t Work So Hard
We have written a previous post detailing why effort does not equal success which sums this point up beautifully. Since not spending time with loved ones was such a constant regret of the dying it is important to realize that as a freelancer there is always work to do – but taking time out for family is a privilege that we must choose regularly.
The beauty of freelancing is that we don’t have to trade time for money. This is something that we cover at length in the Freelance Hustler Challenge, which you can access for free here.
3. Have The Courage To Express Feelings
As a freelancer you are the leader of your business. Making all of the decisions means that you will develop this skill to express your feelings. You will also be able to bring in your own creative ideas on your own platform.
4. Stay In Touch With Friends
As the leader of your business you can manage your own workload, and increase your productivity through training and understanding your own work-style. In addition you can work flexibly from almost any location. All of these factors mean that you can build your life to include plenty of time to spend with friends.
5. Be Happier
Growing your own business successfully brings with it a huge sense of achievement, which contributes heavily to feelings of happiness.
As well as that, you will have the opportunity to create a healthier lifestyle than you might have in traditional employment, with time to workout and eat well incorporated in your daily schedule. Health = Happiness.
Plus, as we have mentioned, with a mobile business you can create opportunity for yourself to travel the world – with your friends and family if you so wish.
6. Make A Difference
In addition to these five, we have added a sixth way that freelancing can make your life fulfilling – and that is by making a difference – to the planet and also to fellow humans.
You can choose to work for noble causes, to make charitable donations with a portion of your profit or even complete charity volunteering work overseas while working on your business remotely.
When your work has meaning, or affords you the opportunity to make a difference in life, it can bring about a profound feeling of satisfaction, somewhere much higher in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The ability to work on our own ethical terms, in line with our own morals undoubtedly leads to higher job satisfaction, and also to greater fulfilment in life overall.
It is not impossible to combine enterprize with ethics. Just look at Anita Roddick of The Body Shop as an example.
I want to work for a company that contributes to and is part of the community. I want something not just to invest in. I want something to believe in. ~ Anita Roddick
How To Find Fulfilling Work?
Let’s finish up by returning to Roman Krznaric’s book, How to Find Fulfilling Work. The video below is a fantastic summary, with 5 simple steps that you can follow to find yours.
1. Remember that being confused is normal.
We suffer from the paradox of choice. As psychologist Barry Schwartz says, the consequence of too many options = inability to do anything at all. So, even if we make a good choice in career, the rejected options remain in the back of our mind and we are haunted by doubts at the choice we made.
As a freelancer you have the freedom to change the course of your business. Failure is never the end, you cannot be fired if you make a mistake – you can instead learn and correct.
2. Know Yourself
In the traditional world of employment, we are forced to make career decisions far too early, before we know what we really want.
Freelancing is an alternative to sticking with the path that your 16 year old self made. Take action if you are unhappy. The regret of not taking action is one of the most corrosive emotions you can experience.
3. Think A Lot
Be sure to think through your freelance options – ask questions – get prepared. Grab our Upwork.com Starter Kit
4. Try Something
Take action – even if it is for a trial period.
5. Reflect On What Makes People Unhappy
This is the golden rule of freelancing. People’s pain points can become your business opportunity!
So there you have it. The top regrets of the dying and how freelancing can help you to avoid them all. Building a freelance business can be your ticket to the life of your dreams, full of challenges for sure, but also satisfaction, connection, love and fulfilment.
Already living your best life? Or perhaps you think we are over-selling freelancing? Tell us all about it in the comments below.