It's Never Too Late to Live Your Life... Until It Is
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified
Dr. Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at DrPhilZeltzman.com and VeterinariansInParadise.com.
This is the story of how Dr. Mike’s health crisis saved his life.
Dr. Mike loved his patients, his clients and his practice teammates. He worked tirelessly at the clinic. Even on his days off, he got roped into helping colleagues and seeing clients who requested him. Dr. Mike was a workaholic.
Meanwhile, he had only made it to a few of his son’s soccer games. And he had never seen his daughter dance, except in videos taken by his wife.
Dr. Mike was dedicated and exhausted. He was tired of the fights with his wife every time he missed another recital. One day, he had a massive heart attack and ended up in the hospital, and this is how he experienced “the top five regrets of the dying.”
The following five regrets — framed as wishes — are by Australian Bronnie Ware, a writer and singer/songwriter who found herself working in a palliative care unit that truly transformed her life. She described these wishes in her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”
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“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
People get caught up with work. They work to please their bosses, their coworkers, their creditors or their clients. They allow these people to make them feel indispensable. “Dr. Mike, the Baileys are coming in because Fluffy has diarrhea. Can you come back in to see them at 3 p.m.?”
The lesson: The reality is that you are not as indispensable as you think.
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Many dreams never turn into reality because of parental, societal or mental blocks. This applies to who you hang out with, where you go to school, what you choose as your career, where you live and who you marry. Dr. Mike really loved his wife and children. He wanted to be at their soccer and dance events and take them on family vacations, but he just didn't get around to it.
The lesson: Decide what your priorities are, then design your life around them.
“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
Dr. Mike had never told his son and daughter how proud he was of them and their accomplishments, and that he knew they would excel in school and in life. Nor had he taken the time to tell his wife how grateful he was for everything she did for the family.
The lesson: Tell people every day how much you care about them and how grateful you are.
“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
People on their death beds realize the value of friends. Dr. Mike missed out on countless events: high school reunions, family gatherings and veterinary school reunions, because he was just too busy.
The lesson: Make it a point to keep in touch with friends and relatives.
“I wish I had let myself be happier.”
The last most common regret of dying people is not allowing themselves to be happy throughout life. They get stuck in a life that is familiar and comfortable, instead of making a change or taking a chance. They get into a routine, like in the movie “Groundhog Day” and become scared to do something different.
The lesson: Dare to make a change and allow yourself to be happy.
Thankfully, Dr. Mike recovered from his heart attack. His death-defying experience helped him turn his entire life around. Protect your work-life balance like your life depends on it — because it does.
Kelly Serfas, a certified veterinary technician in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, contributed to this article.
Dr. Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com and www.VeterinariansInParadise.com.