In the book 'The Top Five Regrets of the Dying' - Austrian nurse and researcher Bronnie Ware spent years asking dying people what their biggest regrets in life were.
From all of the answers that she recorded - these are the Top 5 most common given when the opportunity to reflect was offered:
The 5 list according to her research:
#1 - “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” - having the self-awareness and courage to stand up to the expectations of others
#2 - “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” - so having the courage to work less, to choose to spend time with family and friends and oneself.
#3 - “I wish I had the courage to express my feelings” - the courage to be vulnerable and own ones own emotions honestly.
#4 - “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” - the courage to invest time in others and not succumb to working all of the time and living your life on automatic pilot.
#5 - “I wish I had let myself be happier.” - the courage to take control of your own happiness and choose options which make you more fulfilled with your own life.
The common thread in all of these answers...is courage.
But unlike the courage needed to fight off an attacking bear, or the courage needed to go to war - the adversary threatening people in each of these responses was the individual's own perception of acceptance by others. More often than not the regret was not being true to themselves, but rather honouring the perceived / assumed needs of others.
I emphasis the perceived / assumed nature of the judgement, but I'm sure that the barrier existed in the absence of conscious interrogation.
No questions were ever posed, but the assumed answers were indisputable.
This then is a classic case study in why, when designing the future that you want as a business or as an individual, asking the right questions is far more important than having all the answers.
As social beings we find great pleasure in the acceptance we get from others by having all the 'right answers', but it might be precisely those answers that we doggedly stick to that prevents us from mustering up the courage to discover the real truth that offers us the life that we really want.