Friday, February 24, 2012

Top Five Regrets of the Dying


For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
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 realise 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.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn't work 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.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
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.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise 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.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise 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.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.


P.S. I copied it from http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=188 . 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Give up, or Fight Like Hell: Story of Lance Armstrong



"When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: Give up, or Fight Like Hell."

On October 1996, Lance Armstrong was in the list of the world’s upper class racers. He had won The World Cycling Championship. He also won the US National Road Race Championship with the longest distance ever set in the history of road race, and he had just signed a two-year contract to support the prestigious French team for 2.5 million US$, but then on October 2, he suddenly turned into a patient of cancer.

Early that week he vomited a lot of blood and found his testis enlarged to the size of an orange. Doctors revealed a testis cancer which had spread to the lungs and brain. An emergency surgery but than they admitted his life expectancy was actually only 3%.

But Lance was never a man who gave in easily. Raised by a hand-working mother in a modest outskirts of a town in Texas, he learned bicycle race since his younger age raced triathlons at the age of 15 and soon won medals and prize money. 20 miles of daily cycling and swimming trainings became a break-through for Lance. “If I cycle on to some distant along this way, ‘he thought’, it might lead me out of this place”.

Lance was known as a persevering and defiant racer, a character taken after his mother. Once his mother, seeing him so exhauster and nearly dropped himself during the last lap of a triathlon race, urged him : “my son, you must not stop…..even if you have to walk”. Lance finished the race, right t the finish line.

For Lance, cancer was some kind of race-but this time, it was a race against time. Lance faced his illness just like he raced on his bicycle. He underwent a singer to remove the tumor, followed by months of chemotherapy treatment. For the first time, the racer with the highest aerobic capacity (according to a lab research conducted throughout the country), found his bones so weakened as to render him unable to pedal his bicycle even for a short distance around his house. 

But while the illness weakened him physically, the ordeal just strengthened him spiritually. At the end of his chemotherapy treatment he found his cancer had miraculously gone! Slowly he returned to his cycling training and he then realized the cancer had given him a blessing in disguise: he felt a new love of bicycle. Before that, a bicycle was to him just “a device to serve a purpose…..a potential resource to gain wealth and fame”. But now bicycle became the symbol of his magic spell after his suffering of cancer. “If I still can move, it means I am not sick”.

What was more surprising, the cancer had also ridded him of his weight excess, something that had seen his handicap as a racer. Lance was recognized before as a great one day racer but was not that great in stage race which could last for days or weeks and demands the capability of racing uphill along mountainous area, a true test for those hoping to be world class racers. He had done Tour de France one time only while in other years he had to drop off by fatigue or accidents. Coaches and team mates warned him he had excess body weight for steep uphill racing, but Lance felt sure he could rely on his strength to force himself uphill in spite of his burdening excess weight.

Now, recovered from cancer, he weighed 58.5 kg and that was 6.3 kg less than he weighed before on his previous racing days. So it was when he was ascending the training track of Blue Ridge  Mountain - racing on and on uphill that he felt some change going on in him. He eventually was ready to go to top of becoming the world’s best racer-in all championships, in whatever fields and conditions.

This awareness brought him to Tour de France 1999. In the first time trial he succeeded in getting the maillot jaune, a yellow t-shirt which the leading racer in entitled to wear. Although the yellow shirt had to be handed over to other racers along the race, he soon was able to get it back again when reached the toughest point-high on a hill under a cold rain-Lance just sprinted on pushing forward farther widening the distance between him and his foremost pursuer.

When his competitors reached the finish line in Paris, Lance was already there 7 minutes and 37 seconds earlier, an undisputable superiority. He reached the finish line as a winner along with another victory: his wife was declared pregnant through vitro fertilization after cancer rendered his infertile. 

Lance won Tour de France successively in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, but he wrote : “The fact is, if you asked me to choose between winning Tour de France or cancer, I would choose cancer…..for what it had given me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son and a father”. While fighting his cancer, he defeated life’s greatest enemy : failure. He rejected the prediction that he would not get well, because he cherished a hope. He had confidence-in his courage-for the take of his failure and his ownself - to overcome any doubt.

Lance beautifully summed it up: “I know now why people are so afraid of cancer, it is because cancer is torturingly slow and fatal, and that is the very definition of cynism and spirit loosing”.

“That’s why, I believe”.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

DANIEL DEFOE


"One day, about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very  plain to be seen on the sand."
(From Robinson Crusoe)

English novelist and author of ROBINSON CRUSOE (1719), a story of a man shipwrecked alone on an island. Along with Samuel Richardson, Defoe is considered the founder of the English novel. Before his time stories were usually written as long poems or dramas. He produced some 200 works of nonfiction prose in addition to close 2000 short essays in periodical publications.

 Daniel Defoe was born as the son of Alice and James Foe. His father was a City tradesman and member of the Butchers’ Company. James Foe's stubborn puritanism – the Foes were Protestants who did not belong to the Anglican Church - come occasionally comes through Defoe's writing. He studied at Charles Morton's Academy, London. Although his Nonconformist father intended him for the ministry, Defoe plunged into politics and trade, travelling extensively in Europe. Throughout his life, Defoe also wrote about mercantile projects, but his business ventures failed and left him with large debt amounting over seventeen thousand pounds. This burden shadowed the remainder of his life, which he once summoned:
                            
 "In the School of Affliction I have learnt more Philosophy than at the Academy, and more Divinity than from the Pulpit: In Prison I have learnt to know that Liberty does not consist in open Doors, and the free Egress and Regress of Locomotion. I have seen the rough side of the World as well as the smooth, and have in less than half a Year tasted the difference between the Closet of a King, and the Dungeon of Newgate."

In the early 1680s Defoe was a commission merchant in Cornhill but went bankrupt in 1691. In 1684 he married Mary Tuffley; they had two sons and five daughters. Defoe was involved in Monmouth rebellion in 1685 against James II. While hiding as a fugitive in a churchyard after the rebellion was put down, he noticed the name Robinson Crusoe carved on a stone, and later gave it to his famous hero. Defoe became a supporter of William, joining his army in 1688, and gaining a mercenary reputation because change of allegiance. From 1695 to 1699 he was an accountant to the commissioners of the glass duty and then associated with a brick and tile works in Tilbury. The business failed in 1703.

When the Tories fell from power, Defoe continued to carry out intelligence work for the Whig government. In his own days Defoe was regarded as an unscrupulous, diabolical journalist. Defoe used a number of pen names, including Eye Witness, T.Taylor, and Andrew Morton, Merchant. His most unusual pen name was 'Heliostrapolis, secretary to  the Emperor of the Moon,' used on his political satire The Consolidator, or Memoirs of Sundry Transactions from the World in the Moon (1705). His political writings were widely read and made him powerful enemies. His most remarkable achievement during Queen Anne's reign was the periodical A Review of the Affairs of France, and of All Europe (1704-1713).

Defoe was one of the first to write stories about believable characters in realistic situations using simple prose. He achieved literary immortality when in April 1719 he published Robinson Crusoe, which was based partly on the memoirs of voyagers and castaways, such as Alexander Selkirk, who spent on his island four years and four months. The first edition was printed in London by a publisher of a popular books, W. Taylor. The account of a shipwrecked sailor was a comment both on the human need for society and the equally powerful impulse for solitude. But it also offered a dream of building a private kingdom, a self-made Utopia and being complete self-sufficient. By giving a vivid reality to a theme with large mythic implications, the story has since fascinated generations of readers. His last great work of fiction, ROXANA, appeared in 1724. Defoe's choice of a female protagonist in Moll Flanders reflected his interest in the female experience. He also produced several historical works, a guide book A TOUR THROUGH THE WHOLE ISLAND OF GREAT BRITAIN (1724-27, 3 vols.), THE GREAT LAW OF SUBORDINATION CONSIDERED (1724), an examination of the treatment of servants, and THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN. He died on 26 April, 1731, at his lodgings in Ropemaker's Alley, Moorfields.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Azim Premji - When you lose, Don’t lose the lesson


The funny thing about life is that you realise the value of something only when it begins to leave you. As my hair turned from black to salt and pepper and finally salt without the pepper, I have begun to realise the importance of youth. At the same time, I have begun to truly appreciate some of the lessons I have learnt along the way.


The first lesson I have learnt is that, we must always begin with our strengths. From the earliest years of our schooling, everyone focuses on what is wrong with us. There is an imaginary story of a rabbit. The rabbit was enrolled in a rabbit school. Like all rabbits, it could hop very well but could not swim. At the end of year, the rabbit got high marks in hopping but failed in swimming.
The parents were concerned. They said: "Forget about hopping. You are anyway good at it. Concentrate on swimming." They sent the rabbit for tuitions in swimming. And guess what happened? The rabbit forgot how to hop! As for swimming, have you ever seen a rabbit swim?
While it is important for us to know what we are not good at, we must also cherish what is good in us. That is because it is only our strengths that can give us the energy to correct our weaknesses.
The second lesson I have learnt is that a  rupee earned is of  far more value than five found. My friend was sharing with me the story of his eight year-old niece. She would always complain about the breakfast. The cook tried everything possible, but the child remained unhappy. Finally, my friend took the child to a supper market and brought one of those ready-to-cook packets. She had to cut the packet and pour water in the dish. After that, it took two minutes in the microwave to be ready. The child found the food to be delicious! The difference was that she had cooked it!
In my own life, I have found that nothing gives us as much satisfaction as earning our rewards. What is gifted or inherited follows the rule ‘Come easy, go easy'. I guess we only know the value of what we have\ if we have struggled to earn it.
The third lesson I have learnt is no one hits a hundred every time. Life has many challenges. You win some and lose some.
You must enjoy winning. But do not let it go to the head. The moment it does, you are already on your way to failure. And if you do encounter failure along the way, treat it as an equally natural phenomenon. Don't beat yourself for it or anyone else for that matter! Accept it, look at your own share in the problem, learn from it and move on.
The important thing is , when you lose, do not lose the lesson. The fourth lesson I have learnt is the importance of humility. Sometimes, when you get so much in life, you really start wondering whether you deserve all of it. This brings me to the value of gratitude. We have so much to be grateful for.
Our parents, our teachers and our seniors have done so much for us, that we can never repay them. Many people focus on the shortcomings, because obviously no one can be perfect. But it is important to first acknowledge what we have received.Nothing in life is permanent but when a relationship ends, rather than becoming bitter, we must learn to savour the memory of the good things while they lasted.
The fifth lesson I learnt is that we must always strive for excellence. One way of achieving excellence is by looking at those better than ourselves.
Keep learning what they do differently. Emulate it. But excellence cannot be imposed from outside. We must feel the need from within.
It must become an obsession. It must involve not only our mind but also our heart and soul. Excellence is not an act but a habit.
I remember the inspiring lines of a poem which says, that you reach must always exceeds your grasp. That is heaven on earth. Ultimately, your only competition is with yourself.
The sixth lesson I have learnt is never to give up in the face of adversity. It comes on you suddenly without warning. One can either succumb to self-pity, wring one's hands in despair or decide to deal with the situation with courage and dignity. Always keep in mind that it is only the test of fire that makes fine steel.
A friend of mine shared this incident with me. His eight-year old daughter was struggling away at a jigsaw puzzle. She kept at it for hours but could not succeed.
Finally, it went beyond her bedtime. My friend told her: "Look, why don't you just give up? I don't think you will complete it tonight. Look at it another day."
The girl looked up. There was a strange look in her eyes. "But, dad, why should I give up? All the pieces are there! I have just got to put them together!".
If we preserve long enough, we can put any problem in it's perspective. 
Excepts from a speech by Mr Azim Premji Chairman & CEO of Wipro.