by Nicole Stottlemyer
Recently, I was watching Jane McGonigal’s fabulous TED Talk, “The Game that Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life”. Jane is a game designer who gets a lot of flack from people who think video games are a waste of time. One day, her cabdriver passionately expressed his hatred for games. When people are on their deathbeds, he proclaimed, they will regret all that time they wasted.
This made Jane start to wonder. She loves games but she doesn’t want people to be on their deathbeds regretting their game-playing time. So, she began to study the topic of what dying people regret, and she found a study that revealed people’s top five deathbed regrets:
- 1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- 2. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- 3. I wish I had let myself be happier.
- 4. I wish I had the courage to express my true self.
- 5. I wish I’d lived a life true to my dreams instead of what others expected of me.
Heartbreaking to think about. As I contemplated these five regrets, my positive psychology antennae leapt up.
At a recent CiPP meetup in western Massachusetts, we did a mapping exercise using the SPIRE methodology. And, since there are five regrets, and five elements of SPIRE, I wondered if the two might map together.
Let’s take a peek, shall we?
According to WBI’s SPIRE approach, the five elements of whole-person well-being are Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Relational, and Emotional—because, as WBI teaches, our greatest well-being can be realized only by taking into account our whole self.
So, let’s take that list of regets one by one.
1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
This could fall under P or I. Physical well-being involves bringing awareness to how hard your physical body is working. Intellectual well-being reflects your thoughts and learning—are you spending more time than you’d like to ruminating about work?
2. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. This is a clear-cut R. Relational well-being comes from contributing to and benefiting from the people around us.
3. I wish I had let myself be happier. Clearly this is an E, since Emotional well-being is all about increasing pleasurable emotions.
4. I wish I had the courage to express my true self. This one is a little tricky. I’m torn between assigning it to the I category, since Intellectual well-being is about stretching the mind and, in order to cultivate courage, you have to stretch out of your comfort zone. But, E also seems fitting, since emotional well-being deals with cultivating resilience to face painful emotions, namely the ones that come with the fear of expressing your true self.
5. I wish I’d lived a life true to my dreams instead of what others expected of me. This could be an R, since relational well-being is also about fostering a healthy relationship with yourself. But my first inclination was to assign it an S, because spiritual well-being is about having a sense of purpose and meaning in life, presumably one that you’ve defined for yourself.
The overlap wasn’t as neat and clean as I initially imagined it might be—but I think that’s because optimal well-being is a result of integration, not fragmentation. What we’re all striving for, whether we’re conscious of it or not, is to be whole, not just a combination of parts. To enjoy our lives, to fulfill our potential for well-being, we need to consider the whole person. This philosophy is the centerpiece of WBI’s upcoming Embodied Positive Psychology Summit, April 26–29 at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.
So, as we each play our games, whether video games or simply the game that we call life, SPIRE can help us become aware of living a whole life—one that will yield fewer regrets when we reach its end. As for Jane, she used her research to design a game that boosts resilience and healing—definitely not a waste of time!
Click here to learn more about the Certificate in Positive Psychology.
Nicole Stottlemyer is a coach, facilitator, and senior teaching assistant with Wholebeing Institute, and holds Wholebeing certificates in Positive Psychology and Positive Psychology Coaching. nicoletalks.com