You are nearing the end of a long and productive life.You have had plenty of time to reﬂect on all of your accomplishments over the years. Still you are ﬁlled with a deep sadness and a sense of regret for things untried or plans left unfulﬁlled. You had a good life by society’s standards.You graduated from college and got a good paying job at a company you stayed with for nearly thirty years. You married a good man. Sure you had some problems but he gave you two beautiful children.
But what about your other dreams?
When you were young, you dreamt of being a writer and traveling the world. You imagined sitting in coffee shops in Paris creating your body of work. You dreamt of taking the train through Europe, visiting the ancient ruins in Italy and basking in the sun on the French Riviera. You never expected to spend your days looking at spreadsheets, answering emails and debating viewpoints in endless staff meetings. You think, “What about the book I wanted to write?” You never even made it to Paris. And suddenly, you are ﬁlled with utter regret and you wonder to yourself, “Was this the life I chose or did someone choose it for me?” You realize that it wasn’t and you didn’t. You think to yourself, “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” But now it’s too late.
Most of our society operates from a place of doing what others think is right for us rather than that which our heart truly desires. In nurse Bronnie Ware’s book, The Top Five Biggest Regrets of the Dying, she revealed the most common regrets voiced by her dying patients in their ﬁnal moments - the courage to live a life true to oneself rather than the life others expected was one was shared by many. I often revisit this book to reﬂect on these ﬁve regrets as a sort of self check-in to ensure that I am living a life aligned with what my heart truly desires. Some people have these realizations in their forties or ﬁfties when there is still some time remaining to pursue their dreams. Others never ﬁnd out until they are faced with the reality of their impending death. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
When I was 25, I experienced my own awakening. I was working in a startup company that I helped to build. I loved it dearly, yet I was overworked, stressed out and headed for burn out. I thought there must be more to life. My soul felt restless and deep down I recognized that I was unhappy and unfulﬁlled. A spontaneous getaway vacation to Thailand changed everything. The power of beauty and distance is incredible. With the distance came space from my regular, hectic life. I became still and quiet. In this space, my emotions ran high and my true feelings emerged. Suddenly I realized that all along I had been living life for someone else. This realization rocked me to my core. I broke down sobbing as I reﬂected upon the choices I had made, the mistakes that cost both myself and others pain and the precious time I had wasted trying to prove myself to everyone else. However painful, through that release came a profound sense of peace and clarity. I realized that I could now choose something else. I could choose a life true to my heart’s desires. I could choose to live a life for me. I then made perhaps the biggest and certainly the only major decision I had made completely on my own. I didn’t survey my closest friends for their opinions nor ask my parents permission who surely would have talked me out of it. It was my decision and mine alone.
Making that choice was perhaps the most empowering moment of my life and one that completely transformed who I was to become and the path of my life forever. I returned home and much to the dismay of everyone around me, I quit my job. I sold everything and bought a one way ticket back to Thailand. I took with me only a small backpack ﬁlled with my laptop, journal, camera, a few pieces of clothing and toiletries. I spent the next four years traveling the world getting to know other cultures. More importantly, I spent that time getting to know myself, my true self - the one I silenced for many years. I forgave myself for the mistakes I made and for any way that I hurt others. I forgave those who hurt me. I came to understand that many of the actions I had taken came from a place of insecurity and I began the journey to deeply love myself. This inward journey by far was the most profound one I have ever taken. It was ugly and painful and yet liberating and joyful all at the same time.
I share this with you now in the hopes that you take a moment to reﬂect on your life. Imagine you are near the end of your time on earth. Would you wait with sadness and regret for the life you lived? Or would you wait with satisfaction, joyful memories and even laughter at the beautiful, adventurous and fulﬁlling journey known as your life. Because it is a choice. It’s always been a choice and you have the power to choose something greater right now.
Jessica Yarbrough is a successful entrepreneur and creator of the CEO Babe brand. She helps high achieving women break free from the 9-5 and leverage their skill set to create profitable high end coaching businesses. Her adventures have taken her from burn out in the start up world to spending several years backpacking the world solo, to becoming a single mama with no money and finally to building a successful six figure consulting business. Today, she resides in San Diego with her beautiful three year old daughter, Dasia.