Don’t Die with Your Gifts Still Inside
Please don’t be like the majority who regret what they could have done, but didn’t do, as Australian nurse Bronnie Ware saw when she counseled the dying in their last days. “I wish I would have lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” is what she uncovered as the most common regret. In their final breaths, most people hadn’t honored even half of their dreams. Instead, they took those unexpressed gifts to the grave.
In the book Die Empty, Todd Henry says the most valuable land in the world is not Manhattan, or the oil fields of the Middle East, or the gold mines of South Africa. It’s the graveyard. “In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, unreconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow.’ One day, however, their tomorrow ran out.”
Please don’t die with your gifts still inside.
The Choice: Moving from Worry to Wonder
Every child comes into this world with infinite curiosity and wonder for the world around them. Slowly, though, that wonder is socialized and conditioned out of us and replaced with worry.
Meet Worry & Wonder
Worry says things like:
- Who the hell are you to do this?
- You’re not actually going to say that, right?
- Not you. Not ever. Not enough.
- Look at them: they’re better than you.
- You suck. You suck. You suck.
You get the picture.
On the other hand, wonder knows what we’re capable of, and is committed to nudging us closer and closer to who we were before the world told us who to be. Wonder supports us in deciphering between the disempowering stories we inherited and made up, and the stories that strike the chord of resonance from within.
When Worry says, Who the hell are you to do that?, Wonder chimes in to say, If not you, then who?
When Worry is on its high horse, declaring, You’re not actually going to say that, right?, Wonder will ever so clearly state, You are here to speak your truth. Today. Tomorrow. Always. Is what you want to say a reflection of your truth?
We Get To Choose
Worry and Wonder are perpetually pointing us away from or toward who we truly are and what we’re here to give. In every moment of every day, we get to choose whom we listen to: Worry or Wonder.
Which will you choose?
As important as it is to listen to Wonder, it can be useful to honor Worry, too. Why? Because not all Worry is destructive.
Not All Worry Is Destructive.
Our Worry voice can express itself in two ways: as toxic worry or as useful worry.
Toxic worry is the relentless, looping thoughts that paralyze and prevent you from taking action or moving forward. It’s the gripping rumination on the past and anxiety about the future—a habit that Stanford neurosurgeon Dr. James Doty said we spend nearly 80 percent of our time and attention on.
Useful worry is the foresight to imagine setbacks and challenges, make a plan, and take action. Worry is useful only when it’s within our control and empowers us to act. So when our Worry voice chimes in, we can ask two questions:
1. Is this a real possibility?
2. Is there any productive action I can take right now?
When it’s not a real possibility and there aren’t productive steps to take, we know we’re triggering what neuroscientists call the “threat detection system” in our brain. Thanks to evolution, worry and fear have been wired in our systems for millions of years as a mechanism to keep us safe. To some extent, we need it. Without it, your ancestors would have been eaten by saber-toothed tigers. You would jump off an outrageously high cliff just to see if you could make the landing. You would enter into a business partnership with someone who stated from the outset, “I’m entering into this arrangement with the intention of using you and taking your money.” You would fall in love with someone who said, “I have no desire of ever committing to you.
Worry Helps Us Survive But…
As you can see, worrying prevents us from actual threats to our survival but when it comes to pursuing what’s meaningful to us, those desires typically come along with some level of uncertainty and unknown, which our brains label as “dangerous.” That’s when Worry starts screaming for safety, and we’re inclined to shut down, avoid new experiences, seek familiarity, and push away our dreams. When this happens—when the experience of worry isn’t bringing us closer to who we are and the gifts we’re here to give—it’s noise. A toxic and paralyzing ricocheting inside our minds that, if not monitored, can strangle the life out of us
The Art of Choosing Wonder
As we turn toward our voices of fear, shame, envy, imposter syndrome, comparison, and perfectionism, we’re moving in the direction of joy, beauty, magic, flow, love, and wonder. As we peel back the layers of our conditioning to connect with our truest truth, there are the three C’s—Courage, Curiosity, and Compassion—who are here to be our guides. Imagine them as Wonder’s sidekicks.
Wonder’s Sidekicks: Courage, Curiosity & Compassion
Discomfort is a call to be courageous. Courage is not the absence of discomfort; courage requires discomfort. Courage walks hand-in-hand with discomfort as we unravel our worry myths to discover who we truly are. Courage says, “This is messy. This is scary. I kind of don’t want to go there. But I’m going to go there anyway. I know it’ll make me more me.”
Curiosity is the art of noticing that we’re feeling something—we’re triggered, our emotional world is on fire, our body feels tense and tight, something is off-center—and then wondering how those feelings are connected to a belief or thought. Curiosity says, “What were you thinking about when you felt that? What story were you telling yourself? What was the trigger? Where does that belief come from?”
Diving into the patterns that stifle us can feel uneasy at first. This is when self-compassion is key. Compassion says, “You are human. You are loved. I’m here for you—no matter what.” We are all a product of generations of deep-seated stories, and we’re all doing the best we know how based on our own level of awareness. Compassion reminds us to cultivate empathy for ourselves and others because we’re all navigating our own damaging patterns of unworthiness, shame, guilt, resentment, and pain.
With courage, curiosity, and compassion by your side, every moment becomes an opportunity to see yourself more clearly. An invitation to step into the wholeness of who you are.
Choose Wonder Over.