Episode 123: How to Live With No Regrets with Georgina Scull
It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the minutiae of the day to day – and find ourselves focusing all our time and energy on stressful situations that aren’t really what we value most. But the clock is winding down on all of us. At the end of your life, will you be able to say you’ve lived a life without regrets?
Georgina Scull joins us in this episode to talk about what she learned from writing the book, Regrets of the Dying: Stories and Wisdom That Remind Us How to Live. She shares three revelations that people have while on their deathbeds: not being able to make other people happy, living up to other people’s expectations, and trying to rewrite history. We walk you through practical steps to help you reflect on your true desires so you can live a meaningful life.
If you want to know how to live a life without regrets, tune in to this episode.
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Listen to Georgina’s journey from starting the Regrets of the Dying podcast to the publication of her book.
- Find out the three common regrets of the dying and how to learn from them.
- Recognise the importance of embracing change and creating happiness.
[05:30] The Story Behind Regrets of the Dying
- Rachel and Georgina met five years ago because their children went to the same school.
- At the time, Georgina had a podcast called Regrets of the Dying. She started the podcast after her third pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.
- This experience brought her dangerously close to death, and she reflected on how she’d spent her life.
- She realised that older or dying people often want to talk about their lives but usually hesitate.
[10:04] How Georgina Changed Herself
- After writing the book, Georgina made significant changes in her life.
- She was overweight but wanted to take action, losing 50 pounds in 18 months.
- She was estranged from her mother, but they’ve rekindled their relationship. Now, they are best friends.
- She also amicably ended her marriage of over 20 years.
- Change is hard, and we often worry about what will happen. Most times, we already know what to do; all we need is the courage to do it.
[15:33] The Need for Change
- Change is necessary, especially when the alternatives are no longer viable.
- Divorce and job changes, for example, necessitate careful planning.
- Ask yourself, ‘If I don’t make this change, how will I feel in x years’ time?’
[15:34] “I think you do often know what the right thing is to do. It’s the courage to do it, then isn’t it? Because to change, it can be really, really hard.” – Click Here to Tweet This
[17:31] Learning from Others
- Our decisions have consequences. We often believe that there must be a compelling reason to change.
- Hope can be good, but it can also be the worst thing. You may miss out on life because you’re stuck hoping things will improve.
- While writing her book, Georgina met Kathy, who had been in an unhealthy marriage for 36 years. It took having cancer for Kathy to realise the gravity of her situation.
- Reading stories like Kathy’s can help us learn how things can become worse without realising it.
- Change in relationships requires both people to be in the room and involved.
[19:21] “It can be a really good and positive thing, but it also can really stop you from enjoying life, really, because she was so caught up on the constant hope that things would get better.” – Click Here to Tweet This
[22:28] Three Common Regrets
- The book demonstrates how many regrets often stem from a failure to act.
- Although we may have regrets, we can also reason our way out of them.
[21:46] “Relationships can improve, but you need both people in the room. If both people aren’t in the room, it’s never going to get better.” – Click Here to Tweet This
- There are three common regrets — not being able to make other people happy, living up to expectations, and rewriting history.
- Rewriting history is pursuing things that are unfamiliar to you and ‘fixing’ problems you had in your past or childhood.
- No one wishes they hadn’t taken the time to be with family and friends.
[28:03] Living for Yourself
- Too often, we live our lives trying to impress others or live up to their expectations.
- Pleasing our bosses will never be more important than being there for our families and friends.
- Keep things in perspective. Most things are temporary.
- Our lives are collections of building blocks, such as our relationships, work, and health.
- Our priorities can change, but we need to keep them in order instead of being controlled by them.
[28:06] “We seem to want to live up to expectations of our, maybe, our workplace or our profession, or maybe even our parents more than we want to live up to our expectations of our nearest and dearest or even ourselves.”- Click Here to Tweet This
[30:55] Sorting Out Priorities
- Many of us live our lives assuming that the future will always be there. We often do not realise how valuable something is until it’s gone.
- Georgina tells the story of Katie, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31 and died a year later. Nearing death, Katie expressed her desire to go to the beach with her children, among other things.
- Life isn’t about spending lots of money or even going on expensive trips. We must recognise that the truly important things are already present.
- When we are nearing the end of our lives, we hold on to the people we love and the time spent with them.
- Remember, you only have one life. Know your priorities.
[40:04] You’re in Charge
- People usually regret the what-ifs, but it’s impossible to know what life would have been like.
- We need to be honest and remember that change feels worst when we’re going through it.
- Most people don’t have a job they love or an overwhelming purpose, but this doesn’t mean staying in a situation that actively makes you unhappy.
- You’ll never know unless you try. Don’t waste any more time. Remind yourself to do something different, no matter how small, in small moments. Remember that changing things isn’t the end-all solution.
[40:48] “Most of the regrets were things they hadn’t done. That sort of thing they thought about was “What would my life have been like, if I’d made that change back in the day? If I’d done this’.” – Click Here to Tweet This
[46:57] Three Lessons from the Book
- Be honest about what you want. Listen to your gut feeling.
- Change what you don’t like. Think of practical ways to do so.
- Appreciate what you have. We often focus too much on the negative, and we need to enjoy the little moments that make us happy.
- It’s not selfish to focus on our happiness.
[48:22] “Just really appreciate that little bit more, that little moments — the people that really bring joy to your life. Whether it’s your kids, your friends, or your hobbies, going to the movies, anything.”- Click Here to Tweet This
[50:42] Getting Out of a Rut
- Take a piece of paper and break down everything that happened during the day. Examine what you enjoyed and didn’t. Try to look at your day every 15 minutes.
- Be truthful about what you list down and practical about how you can change.
- If there seem to be too many things to change, stop; don’t catastrophise.
[53:02] “Sometimes, there are so many things that maybe seem like they need changing, and you have to stop yourself. Don’t catastrophise it. Don’t kind of go off on tangents or implode and basically go out.”- Click Here to Tweet This
Georgina Scull is a writer and broadcaster who has contributed to BBC Radio 4 programming.
She’s been a finalist for several awards, including the New Zealand Radio Awards 2012’s Best Drama Production for the docu-drama The Secrets I Keep; and long-listed for the Orange Prize for Screenwriting issued by Pathe / Orange.
Following a near-death experience, Georgina sought out others to find out what it means to live life, exploring what people regret and how to live a better life. She compiled these stories into a podcast series called Regrets of the Dying. Finally, in 2022 she debuted a book of the same title.
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Change is hard. You know, I don’t know if you find this, Rachael but sometimes your gut tells you something’s not right. But you kind of don’t always trust it or you’re worried about. If you make a decision or a change that’s going to change everything. Is it going to change it in a good way? Are you in a strange way going to regret that, instead of regretting being unchanged can be quite tricky. If you’re in a job that not only doesn’t make you happy, but if it actively makes you unhappy, if you actively feel the pain of the Sunday night getting up in the morning, is this really what you imagined?
I don’t think it’s too much to expect that something that takes up so much of your life to be something at the bare minimum that you like, not everyone’s going to have a job that they love, but it shouldn’t, I don’t think, eat up so much of your life. If you don’t like what you’ve got, then why are we so scared of changing it?
Dr Rachel Morris: If you knew you only have a year left to live? How would you spend it? What would you do? Who would you prioritise? What would you notice and appreciate which at the moment you just take for granted? Mercifully, most of us have a lot longer left on this planet. But can you put your hands on your heart and say that at the end of your life, you’ll look back without any regrets? This week on the podcast, Georgina Scull, writer, podcaster, and author of the book Regrets of the Dying, shares the stories and wisdom she’s collected from people nearing the end of their lives.
There are many, many things in life that will lead to regret. But interestingly, the most common regrets were about the things people hadn’t done, the risks they hadn’t taken, and the changes they didn’t make, because of fear. Fear of what people might think, fear of the unknown or fear of failure. Recording the Regrets of the Dying podcasts and writing the book caused Gina to look at her own life, and be really honest with herself and inspired her to make some difficult but brave choices, which instinctively she knew she had to make, but had been putting off for far too long.
I found this conversation with Gina both challenging and very moving. We don’t all have unlimited choices, or even the choices that we want. But we do have a choice. It made me think hard about who and what I was prioritising in my life, and led me to examine if I really want what I think I want. It also reminded me of the beautiful question asked by the poet Mary Oliver, tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? So listen to this episode, if you want to find out what the most common regrets are that people have at the end of their lives. Where to start if you feel stuck in a job, or role or relationship that no longer fits, and how to focus on the right things to live your one wild and precious life so that you have no regrets.
Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, podcast for doctors and busy professionals in health care and other high stress jobs if you want to beat burnout, and work happier. I’m Dr Rachel Morris, a former GP now working as a coach, speaker and specialist in resilience at work. Like frogs in a pan of slowly boiling water, many of us have found that exhaustion and stress are slowly becoming the norm. But you are not a frog. You don’t have to choose between burning out or getting out. In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues and experts, all who have an interesting take on this and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you will live and work.
In healthcare at the moment, people are struggling with overwhelming demand, increasing patient expectations and spiralling workloads. Until we develop the ability to time travel, or add in a couple of extra hours to the day, we’re going to have to face reality and admit that we really can’t do everything. This means accepting our limits, setting boundaries and sometimes saying ‘no’, in order to continue to be able to do our best at work. So throughout May and June, we’re releasing a brand new mini video series all about how healthcare teams can prioritise powerfully, say no with confidence and fall back in love with their work. You can get this free mini series by clicking on the link in the show notes. And if it’s helpful, please do share it with your colleagues.
It’s wonderful to welcome onto the podcast with me today. Georgina Scull. Now Georgina is an author and a writer and a podcaster. And Georgina has recently released a book called Regrets of the Dying, which was released in the UK on the 14th of April. And next week, it’s going to be out in Canada and the US too. So really exciting. Gina, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I’m presuming it’s been quite a busy couple of weeks for you.
Georgina: It has. It’s been a bit surreal to be honest. I mean, I used to spend all my time on my own. Me and my daughter, me and my laptop, and I’ve had to do a radio thing. And I’ve been in the newspapers. It’s been a bit weird, but lovely.
Rachel: So we’re gonna talk about the book in a minute, because I think it’s such an interesting and an important topic. But it’d be quite nice just to talk about how I know Gina, actually, because we first met it was a few years ago, wasn’t it? We had children at the same school. And Gina, you were doing a podcast initially.
Georgina: That was out about five years ago. Actually, it’s been quite a long road.
Rachel: So I remember chatting to you one day. And you mentioned it. And I think I said oh, I’m interested in podcasting. And you were very, very kind and you gave up quite a bit of your time just to talk me through how to do it. So actually, this entire podcast, we’ve got you to thank for all of this. So you gave me some really good tips. And so the podcast that you did when we initially got together to talk about it was actually called Regrets of the Dying as well. So same title as the book.
Yeah, exactly. Well, we’re the book, we’ve added a subhead. So it’s Regrets of the Dying: Stories and Wisdom that Remind us How to Live, just so just to give you a bit of a better idea what I’m kind of veering towards,
Rachel: That just gives me goosebumps, that subheading, actually. So tell me, why did you initially start on this journey? Why did you start with that podcast all about Regrets of the Dying? Yeah, what led you to that in the first place?
Georgina: Well, I was living in New Zealand. And you get to this point in life where you feel like I should be really happy with what I’ve got. And I didn’t necessarily. And then I had an ectopic pregnancy, which ruptured, and it was my second ectopic, but it was the third pregnancy that I’d lost. So it’s weird, I suppose I kind of felt like I should have been used to it. Like, why? You know that this happens, but the rupture was so bad, you know, I said, I was five minutes away from death, like if I hadn’t got there. In fact, the doctor rather delightfully told me after the surgeon, when he came around to see me afterwards, after they operated on me that it was basically like a little spurting fountain of blood in my belly. So I’ve kind of had that visual in my head ever since.
But, yeah, it just shakes you. But effectively, and, and I think when you get so near to something like that, and I had an 18 month old daughter at the time, she’s actually twelve now, so it’s, you know, feels like a lifetime away now. But it doesn’t make you think about what you’re doing. It does make you think about how you’re spending your days and if this is what you should be doing, but I think the weird thing was is I really didn’t make any changes. I kind of just sat in it really. I think the probably the best way to describe it, as I found myself stuck between the past and the future. And I wasn’t really living in the now at all. I just kept on thinking about all the things I’ve done wrong, and what things I could have done better, and why wasn’t I, you know, somewhere else by now. And it drove me a little bit crazy, to be honest.
And I tried lots of different things to try and cheer myself up and crack on with it. But nothing seemed to work. I went to therapy for a bit. And that was nice, but it didn’t do it for me, maybe the person I saw I’m not quite sure, she was lovely, but didn’t necessarily help. So I think I prefer taking action with stuff. So that’s what I did really, I did the podcast because I looked for what I wanted to listen to, and I couldn’t find it out there. So I thought, right, I’ve got to go and find the people myself. And then I kind of gradually built these eight stories and just went out. And you know, I had no idea if anyone’s going to listen to it, and was going to be interested. And I kind of found like people that are dying, or people that are older actually really do want to talk about it. I mean, some people don’t some people prefer to be in denial, and that’s totally a personal choice. But other people do like to talk about it and they do like to talk about our lives and be honest.
I found when I went around talking to people that other people didn’t necessarily want them to talk, or they’re being slightly ring fenced or they were worried about upsetting people. But being interviewed by strange or rather me listening, which is effectively what I did. I didn’t really ask that many questions at all. I kind of just sat in their living rooms and press record and let them talk. I don’t know, it just they didn’t feel like they had to edit what they had to say. So it was quite freeing for them. It felt and it was definitely a learning thing for me as well, just kind of reminding myself what was really important and what is really important.
Rachel : It’s really, really powerful. Even just Regrets of the Dying, really really piques your interest, because there’s a very sort of common coaching exercise that you can do with groups of people or just people, which is, you know, imagining your funeral and what eulogy you would have or what obituary someone would write about you. It’s a bit of a gory one. So you don’t use it very much. In fact, I think people have sort of adapted it to be, imagine it’s your retirement day. What do you want people to be saying about you, but that then becomes very, very work based because at your retirement, do people generally talk about what you achieved, But it’s much, much more powerful to think about if you’re at the end of your life, what are you going to be looking back on and regretting that you did or you didn’t do? And it seems to me to be a pretty powerful motivator. I mean, did you use that as a motivator for yourself?
Georgina: Not to begin with, it took me a long time to kind of make some changes, but after the podcast, and then when I was writing the book, and definitely when I was writing the book, I’d kind of come to some really big decisions. So I made some quite big changes for me anyway, in my life. I was quite overweight, I think, just the stress of everything, I just oh, my god, I would just secretly creep up to the corner shop, you know, buy boxes of French fancies, and before you know it, they’d be gone. I think it was just my way of coping really, I don’t really drink that much. I don’t smoke. So it was kind of like my way of coping. And I was always like putting a stone on every year. And I hit a point where I just don’t feel comfortable in my body anymore. I don’t know, some people do. But for me, it was a biggie, I just felt like I’d started to hide myself away.
So one of the changes I made was, I was honest, I looked in the mirror, went ‘I don’t like this anymore, I don’t feel healthy anymore0. So I’m going to very, very gradually try and do something about this.’ And I think over about a year, 18 months I lost, well, it was over 50 pounds. So that was kind of a big thing for my you know? I mean, I’ll always in my head, kind of have a bit of a wibbly thing about weight and stuff. But it was nice to, you know, an action. And this is what the outcome was, it was really nice to kind of take control of it a bit more.
And I think the other, there was two other things really, I’d also become estranged with my mom. And we’re very similar, but we’re also very different. And so we clashed a lot, we’ve always clashed a lot. And I left home when I was quite young or 16. And I didn’t really go home that often at all, I was kind of very self sufficient from a young age. And I think my mom thought I didn’t need her, and that I didn’t really respect her. But I do and I did. And so I managed to reforge a connection with her which was, has been amazing, really, she’s become like my best friend really. In the last year or so I actually wrote her a series of notes, and one for each day to run from Christmas to her birthday, each one spelling things that I love about her and things that I appreciated that she did for us all the little things over the years that she’d done for us, or the big and small things really. And I don’t think I’d ever really told her that before. I think it all gone unsaid. So I was really glad that I said it. And we’ve been thick as thieves since then.
So again, a very good decision. Very glad I did that. I mean, it could have ended up in a different way. But you have to take a chance sometimes and go. Because I know if I hadn’t reconnected with my mom, and something would have happened to her, that would have been such a huge regret. And I just couldn’t. That would have been so hard to live with. And the third one was probably the biggest one that changed the day to day, which was ending my marriage, which was really difficult. We’ve been together for like twenty one, twenty two years. You know, we met when I was 23. And I think I was 46 when we split up. I’m 48 now so it’s, you’re a different person a bit you’ve been through a life with somebody. So even if you know the marriage isn’t working, to call time when it is just such an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially when you’ve got a child. In the end actually, we went through marriage counselling, and we both came to the same conclusion that actually we’d run out of steam and it was time to call time and so and because of that, I think because we’re both on the same page.
We’re friends, you know, we come around for tea. He had Christmas with us and you know, it’s nice. There’s no animosity or kerfuffling. Again, it turns out to be the best decision that maybe should have been made quite a few years ago. But change is hard. You know, like, I don’t know if you find that So Rachel, but sometimes your gut tells you something’s not right. But you kind of don’t always trust it or you’re worried about, if you make a decision that or a change that’s, that’s going to change everything? Is it going to change it in a good way? Are you good? Are you in a strange way going to regret that? Instead of regretting being unchanged? It’s can be quite tricky. But I think if you listen to your gut, your gut will nearly always, like, if you’re completely honest with yourself, whether this is right or wrong, you know.
Rachel : I totally agree, I think you too often know what the right thing is to do. It’s the courage to do it, then isn’t it? Because to change, it can be really, really hard. And those were three massive changes in your life. All three of those took an awful lot of courage, right? But you made that decision to do it.
Georgina: Yeah, cause the alternative, I think we got to the point where the alternative just wasn’t doable anymore. And I think maybe that’s why it took me so long to make the changes. Because, you know, for my weight I got to the point where I’d go out running and my ankles were just crap out on me, like, I can’t live a life like that. This is ridiculous. I’m not, I’m not old, but I’m not young. It’s just something I need to make the most of this body that I’ve been given. Not everyone has that gift of having a healthy body. And I feel like I need to respect that. You know what I mean? And so, with a marriage, it’s the same thing. It was good when it was good. And if we just kept on, like, when I kept on thinking about the future, thinking, ‘God, can I do this for another 20 years?’ And the emphatic thing was ‘No, I cannot. I cannot.’ The voice in my head was so clear.
But then, you know, the practicalities of that are a bit of a nightmare, because it’s so expensive to live, like how can you live on your own, you know, running a household. And it is really tricky. And that’s why sometimes it’s not a rash decision. It’s something you have to really plan and think about, you know, like changing a job. Changing your living circumstances is a massive thing. And most of us don’t have loads of cash in the bank and other things to fall on. We have to be a bit strategic about it, and really plan and schedule it, but I think you have to think about in the future if I if I don’t make this change, if I don’t work towards it, at least then how will I feel in X amount of years’ time.
Rachel : And I think that’s what’s so powerful about the book. Because what you’ve done is you’ve done all these different interviews with different people nearing the end of their life, and finding out what the consequences are, if you don’t make those changes. Right. So I’m just thinking of one of the chapters I read last night about staying in an unhealthy relationship for too long. I mean, it wasn’t just like pretend years, this was someone who had stayed in a relationship for over 30 years. Is that right?
Yeah, she was. Over 30 years.
Rachel : Yeah. And it sounds like she had a really unhappy time.
I think the thing with relationships, and sometimes with work as well, is that unless it’s really, really awful, like if the person’s not hitting us, if we’re not being bullied at work, if we’re not, you know, being really, really physical, if we’re almost being ignored, and not considered that somehow that’s not enough. That’s not good enough reason to change, do you know what I mean? Somehow there has to be some massive reason that you can point to and say to everyone, they have an addiction, or they’re playing around on me or, and if they’re not, because that’s not what happened to her. Kathy was, she was 70 when she left her marriage, and she’d been in it for 36 years. And she was honestly the loveliest woman from Canada. And she just kept on hoping it will get better.
And it was really weird, because there was two stories that kind of made me realise about the concept of hope and how that changed the idea of hope in my mind. There was one I did on the podcast about Mike, he was on death row. And there’s one in the book, which is Kathy. And both of them were saying that hope can be the worst thing. Like it can be a really good and positive thing, but it also can really stop you from enjoying life, really, because she was so caught up in the constant hope that things will get better. She clung on to that and she kept in a relationship that was cold and loveless and thought, thinking, you know, she went through breast cancer and her husband didn’t come to any of the appointments.
You know if anyone’s been through something like that, and I am lucky I haven’t, but when you go through therapy, chemotherapy, I think it just completely wipes you out. Like you need someone they’re looking after you need someone that you can kind of lean on. And so even though she was meant to be in this marriage, she only had herself. And so I think that was one of the first wake up calls she had really. It was just like, this isn’t good. This isn’t good at all, when like a real knock on the door to come on, you need to do this.
Rachel : Yeah, I mean that that was a really shocking bit of that story where she had lots of chemotherapy, and even though her husband wasn’t working and was living with her, he didn’t want to drive her to her chemotherapy.
Georgina: It’s just, it’s just beyond isn’t it? If you’re entering into a relationship, and you kind of fast forwarded to What you actually end up getting in some relationships, not all relationships, most relationships are lovely and brilliant. But when they’re not, if you say go out with this person, if you get breast cancer, they’re not going to drive you to the hospital and be there for you in any way whatsoever. It’s not going to be so
Rachel : Normally wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, would you? But let’s face it.
It’s a slight that’s what can happen is it slowly slowly kind of goes down the slippery slope to no good. And you almost don’t realise it. It’s a bit like actually, it’s like the title of your podcast. You know, you’re the frog in the water. And it’s like the heat going up slightly, but you’re not really noticing it, you’re going, that’s fine. Everything’s fine. Hope it will be better.
Rachel : Do you really think it is misplaced? Hope that it will get better? Do you really think people genuinely think it will? Or do you think they say it’s that when actually it’s just the fear that comes with having to make that change?
Georgina: I think it’s both really, but relationships can improve, but you need both people in the room. And if both people aren’t in the room, it’s never gonna get better. So you hear of these wonderful stories of people who split up and then meet up again, and then that’s better than ever. And it can happen, it absolutely can happen. But if both of you, if both people involved aren’t interested, you need two of them in the room, though. Yeah. So I agree. It’s, it’s being scared, and either hope still, because she was quite from quite a religious background, too. So for her, it was really important. I think the whole idea of marriage and the unity of it was really important. So, yeah.
And what really struck me through the book with all these regrets, so when I opened it, I thought, right, I’m gonna hear about this person who regretted doing this. And they regretted doing that. And they regretted doing the other thing. The vast majority of regrets were regrets that they didn’t do something.
Rachel: Did that surprise you?
Georgina: No. No, I don’t think it did. Because I know, that was quite similar to my own experience, really. Things that I hadn’t really gone for were the definitely the things that kind of preoccupied my mind. But I think, yeah, I think the thing that did kind of surprise me was that there were stories in there where I thought people would really regret one thing, and they regretted another. Because I think humans have this wonderful capacity to reason stuff out. Because deep down we know, most of our decisions are made for really good reasons at the time. And so I think that’s something to really keep in mind is that people regretted stuff, but even though they say it’s regret, they will also go but that’s what I had to do then because of this reason. And that’s, I think the case for most of us.
I know for myself, like if, you know, if you’re in a job that you don’t lie, or a position like that job to be like this. There might be practical reasons why you have to do that right now. But I don’t think that should stop you from planning for something else. You know what I mean? Like working out an exit to it all. I think there’s probably, when I’d finished all of the interviews, there seemed to be a pattern. I don’t know if you’ve found this kind of reading through, but I know writing it. And I think there was kind of like three main things that kind of made people create regrets, as it were. They’re either trying to make other people happy. They were trying to live up to the expectations of others. So someone saw them a certain way, their parents or their partner or the whoever. And this one was the biggest one, I think, in my mind was kind of like us trying to rewrite history.
So the first chapter is a guy called Alan, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in his late 40s. And amazing guy, working class background, did really well for himself in business, worked incredibly hard. achieved a lot but but kind of the same, he said to me was, I spent a lifetime chasing this and creating all this money and status. And it took me six months to realise I’d wasted my time. And it was a slight hiccup when he said that to me, I was like, Oh, my God, but, but I think what it was, was that it was almost trying to rewrite where he came from, i.e. comes from a working class background, he didn’t have much money, and he went, ‘I’m going to have a different life.’ I’m going to set you know, it’s almost like setting the record straight. And I think we can do that in love as well.
You know, if we come from parents that don’t necessarily show their love for us, then we might try and chase relationships that aren’t particularly healthy, that are going to, you know, we’re chasing after love. We want to disprove what’s happened before we’re trying to rewrite what’s happened, and who people think we are. And I think that happens a lot. It’s almost like a pendulum swing, like it goes from generation to generation. Yeah, like in its simplest form, I suppose. It’s like, if your parents were super strict than you and you have kids, you might be super liberal. And then when your kids grow up, they might go back to being super strict again. Cause under them, you can see the negative points of what someone’s done. And sometimes it’s easy to see the negative points rather than the positive ones, I think.
Rachel : Gosh, I totally agree with that. I mean, you would think that generation after generation, we would just be becoming much better people, much better parents, as we learn from the mistakes. I think you’re right, you do sort of just over overcompensate, don’t you, with what you’ve lacked. And it just strikes me that a lot of these regrets, like sort of not doing what you love, putting work first, working too much, not having a good work life balance, not looking after your health. It’s where people seem to just be stuck in a rut where they just carrying on and carrying on.
Even the whole putting work first, it’s almost easier to put work first, than say put your family first, to put your relationship first, because work will always come first, if you don’t make that stand, I think a lot of the time. So again, that seems to be an act of omission rather than an act of commission. I can’t imagine anyone really, you know, being on their deathbed and saying, well, it’s like that old adage, isn’t it? No one ever said on their deathbed, I wish I’d spent more time in the office. No one’s ever on their deathbed gonna go. I wish I hadn’t taken that time to do that extended holiday with my family, or I wish I hadn’t made sure I was there at that time after school every single week for my child, of course.
You will never, ever regret that. But at the time, you’re going to be putting lots of people’s noses out of joint to be able to do that quite a lot of the time. If you are in a job where in order to spend that weekday evening, doing that thing, you have to put boundaries in and say no and disappoint people. Sometimes, I guess that goes into that. That second thing about living up to people’s expectations. We seem to want to live up to expectations of our workplace or our profession, or maybe even our parents more than we want to live up to our expectations of our nearest and dearest or even ourselves. I don’t know.
Georgina: Yeah, no, I agree. Yeah, I agree. Because I was talking to a friend the other day, and they’ve got a couple of different part time jobs. And one of them is like, you know, you have three things. And this is the one that doesn’t really pay that well don’t they don’t really enjoy it. It takes up their time, because a friend helped them get the job. They’re like, ‘Oh, I feel really bad if I give it up.’ And I’m like, ‘Why would you feel bad? That it’s really nice that they got it for you, but it’s not working out.’ So what forever on, you have to do this job that’s not bringing you in much money, is taking up your time. It does seem crazy. It’s almost putting other people above us.
With the workplace, it’s like, you go and work in a job and your boss is really important and you want to impress everybody and then you realise years down the line, you see them in the street and it’s almost like, well, who are they anyway? I mean, it sounds really awful, but they don’t really matter. Like the, the size of they are the kind of space they take up in your life will never be always that big. Your kids will be that big, your parents will big, your best friends and yourself will always be big in your life. But these other things are transitory; they’re not going to be forever. You have to make sure we think to keep things in perspective. Also maybe remind yourself that I mean, this is also one of the reasons why I wonder what book was that I think the drift that we experience in life is sometimes because we don’t kind of face up to the fact that these moments don’t last forever.
Like our kids, they’re only a certain age for a certain amount of time. You know at certain moments in our relationships with our friends or whatever, only a certain way for a certain amount of time. Everything’s changing continuously, though to constantly put off and kind of put everything else above that, you know, something else that maybe could wait or actually, in the end of the day isn’t super important, even though it feels like it’s super important at the time is important to keep it in perspective, and know that those moments are transitory.
And we have to really look at the collection of, I kind of call it like the building blocks of our lives, we have our relationships, and we have a work and we have our friends, and we have money, and we have all these different things, our health. And it’s in there, they all go to build up our lives. So all of them are important, but just at different times, you know, we have to keep them in that order. In the order that works for us, not the order someone else wants them to work for us.
Rachel : I think a lot of the time, the problem is we don’t actually know for ourselves what is important, probably until it’s just about to be taken away from us. And I was very struck by the couple of chapters that you’ve got from the young women who are dying or actually have died of cancer at a very early age. And one of them Katie think it was, the not fully appreciating what you have to do. And I remember when my children were little and things just seemed so so hard, work seem so so hard, just wishing that they were a bit older, so I wasn’t going to be so tired all the time or so things were just a bit older. But in her thing.
She’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I appreciate what I’ve got so much now because I know I’m not going to have this because I know my life is limited. I’ve got a terminal illness.’ And I think if I’m honest, a lot of us live our lives just thinking into the future. And thinking the future is always going to be there. And then not realising until it’s too late that we are actually just missing out on what we have right now.
Georgina: Yeah, that’s exactly it. That’s completely exactly it. I mean, with Katie, she was 31 when she was diagnosed, she had bowel cancer. And then it was literally a year later she died. And I mean, her chapter is actually a blog of her. She kept a blog as she was going through treatment. Because I think it was just really hard to keep everybody updated all the time. And everyone asking questions. So just kept this blog. That was one of the few chapters that’s in the podcast and in the book. And I have honestly never cried so much. And I still get really upset when I think about Katie, when I recorded the audiobook, it was actually would have been her 40th birthday. It doesn’t seem right, first of all. I was just so angry that, you know, she’s so young. But the things but the things she said were just so it was just the little things, you know that she just, it was little things that was really important in the end: her family and not going on massive holidays and not spending lots of money and not having a fancy kitchen and not all these things that sometimes that kind of preoccupy ourselves at the moment.
It’s just the way that modern life is, it’s always that you have to constantly be progressing and getting more and bigger and better. And you know what, at the end of the day, she just wanted to go to the beach with her kids. She just wanted to see them through another birthday. And she just wanted to see them open their presents at Christmas. And you know, she doesn’t get to do that now. So, and I’m sorry, I just don’t, it just seems like it’s just an absolute reminder that if we have those things we need to exactly. Don’t do that thing that I did, don’t look so far into the past or things you haven’t done or the things you even think you’ve messed up, or look so far into the future and live your life planning and scheduling everything that’s going to happen and not sit in the here and now.
I’m not a ying-yangy person, I don’t do yoga, I don’t meditate and stuff like that. But there is something very special and, and not thinking about anything else right now. Just sitting on a sofa on a Saturday night with your family and watching a movie. And just going for a walk with a friend and having a nice chat about life or sorting out each other’s problems. Because those will be the moments that we completely disregard. And they will be the moments that we absolutely hold with us at the end. They just will. So I mean, from my experience talking to people that just seems to be the stuff they hold on to, because they’re about love. I mean, you’re talking about your kids, Rachel, you know, and how hard it is when they’re young and it completely is. But you know, why do you do it? Because you love them. Why do we work so hard? Because there are moments where we love it hopefully, or, you know, potentially. Just to keep it down to what we love, you know, reminding ourselves who we love what we love and letting that guide our way and be on priority, including ourselves, actually, because we don’t really include ourselves in that love, and it is really important that we like ourselves. And that we make that a priority in our lives because it’s just, we only get one shot. And that’s just such a cliche, but it’s completely true. And it’s so easy to pretend that it doesn’t end, but it does. And it ends for everybody. And Katie had no idea her life was going to end when she was 32. You know what I mean?
And there was another woman I interviewed, Anthea, who was amazing. And she was in her 40s. And she said, she was talking about when she was going to turn 40. And she was really a bit petrified about it, like, what does this mean, you know, what should I have done by now. And then when she got her diagnosis, she was like, ‘I don’t care. On my life, this is good.’ It lost all relevance, or relevance at all, which is why I’m never shy about saying, ‘Hold on. I’m lucky to be here, I’m glad that I’m here.’ And living is a good thing. You know, it’s, it’s hard sometimes. But as long as we’re living and breathing, there’s always a chance for change.
Rachel : And this is just such powerful stuff. But we forget it, we forget it in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And that list of phone calls that we need to make and all those bits of paperwork that we need to get done. And if we can just finish that and what they’re gonna think of me if I maybe leave that and someone else has to do it, and oh, my goodness, but you too, you only get one shot at this life. And your stories are an amazing mortality wake up call. And I love the fact in the book, you start off with the Mary Oliver quote, which I when I read that I was like, yes!
You probably don’t know this, but I actually named my business after that Mary Oliver quote, when I was just having to think about what to call my organisation. I came across this Mary Oliver quote, which is from I think it’s from the poem ‘The Summer Day’. And it’s ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.’ And I thought, well, what does a wild and precious life look like, on a Monday morning, when you’re trying to get everyone out the door when you’ve got a surgery about to start, and you’ve got 20 million things to do, and you think you’re really behind and you really knackered from the weekend? But it is possible to have a wild and precious life. So that’s why I founded Wild Monday. So that’s where that comes from, having a wild and precious life in the life that we currently live. But that doesn’t mean just going along with the status quo and not ever making any changes, because it’s exactly what you’re saying.
There are some things that you can’t change. Sometimes that’s your physical location, you certainly can’t change your family. You know, you can’t change who your parents were, who your siblings are all those sorts of things. But there are a lot of things that we don’t change that we could change. And often, we’re not changing them not because we don’t have the options, or we aren’t able to. But because it just seems too flipping difficult, and we don’t know what to do. And we don’t have that mortality wake up call of ‘this is going to end’. We sort of theoretically know it’s going to end. But a lot of the time, we don’t really know it deep down. And in your book, I think that’s why your book is so powerful, it actually helps to think well, yeah, what if I, tomorrow got told, I only had a year left to live? How would that change what I’m doing with my life? Now, day to day, moment to moment. And when I think like that it, it messes with your head a bit.
Georgina: But I think you have to keep in mind. But it can’t be all good. It’s kind of somebody you sit down with. And it helps you to focus in on it. And it helps you kind of work out what things you want to change and what makes me happy, what makes me actively unhappy? And how can I possibly change these things. But I think we’re very good at adapting to that. That’s the way it is and then kind of moving on. But most of us don’t do that first bit. And we kind of don’t take into consideration the fact that we change, like, I’m not who I was 20 years ago.
So the things I used to be chasing, the things I used to want and the ambitions I had aren’t the same ambitions that I have now. And it’s like a drift of a different nature. It’s a drift of doing nothing and just going along with stuff and there’s a drift of keeping fighting for something. And we kind of forget to sit down and have the same conversation with ourselves and go do I actually really want that anymore. You know, is that a goal of mine anymore? Because if it isn’t, you’re running up the wrong ladder. There might be one that you used to want to kind of achieve but now it might be completely irrelevant and you’re wasting time again, you know when you could be doing something, something else more positive could be sitting in that space in your head.
Rachel : What I’m quite interested in is the things that stop people making these changes. So you know, are the fears and the worries we have — which often are quite valid like you said earlier — if we stopped this marriage, what effect is that going to have on the kids? If I stopped this work? What effect will that have on the people that rely on me or my income and stuff like that? When you were interviewing people about their regrets, what did people say about the consequences of the decisions? The positive change decisions that they’ve made? Did they ever really regret some of those? Or were the consequences much less than they thought they would have been?
Georgina: Well, I think like you were saying before, like most of the regrets were things they hadn’t done. So that sort of thing they thought about was what would my life have been like, if I’d made that change back in the day? If I’d done this, like, so that there’s no real way of knowing what would have been, because we can’t, you know, it’s impossible. I think that’s part of us being really honest with ourselves and saying, as painful as this is, change is not always the worst thing. It’s worse when you’re going through it. It’s hell, when you’re going through it. It really is, like, I knew me and my husband should have split up years ago. But I still had six months of basically crying every day. And just feeling like a failure to be honest, that feeling of failing my daughter, you know, feeling like I should have found a way through it. How is this going to work? What could we have done differently?
But the idea when you do think of these things, and you think what could I do in the future? Like, what would my life look like if we’d stayed together for another 20 years? I can’t imagine it. I just can’t even imagine it. And if you can’t imagine it, you can’t do it. If you’re in a job, that really doesn’t, not only not doesn’t make you happy, because practicalities, you know, you need to bring in money to pay rent and mortgages and stuff. But if it actively makes you unhappy, if you actively feel the pain of the Sunday night getting up in the morning, like is this what you imagined?
I don’t think it’s too much to expect something that takes up so much of your life to be something at the bare minimum that you like, not everyone’s going to have a job that they love. Not everyone’s gonna have this overwhelming purpose. In fact, I think most people don’t. But it shouldn’t I don’t think, take up so much of your life. You know, eat up so much of your life, that that’s something that actually doesn’t bring you something, whether it’s the people you work with or the work.
If it’s just the money, you know, it’s the adaptability thing, you can adapt to a different situation. But if you don’t try, then you will never know. That’s the thing. I don’t know, I just don’t want people wasting their time. Do you see what I mean? Like, because we’re talking to people, though, that are like in their 20s and 30s. I mean, 20s and 30s who are who are dying. I knew that that would happen. But I’ve never actually talked to anybody. And the things they regretted like one of them Tasia, she basically said, it wasn’t things she’d done, it was all the things she was never going to get to do. So she will never get to do all these different things that other people take for granted. And all the things that she loves, she can’t necessarily do now like horse riding and stuff, because you’ve been through so many so much therapy, our bones are so brittle, you couldn’t do this, that the other, you know, you’re still making the most of life, which is an amazing woman.
But you know, is the things you don’t get to do. We get to do them, we get to do them, so we have to somehow find a way. And it is incredibly hard. And it is incredibly difficult. But I think like careful planning and making really small changes. Because I think sometimes we get into a real rut, in every sense. Like we go to a cafe we sit at the same table. Yeah, I mean, like we everything we do is the same. We sit on the same seat on the bus, we always do it this way, we always order this from the takeout. And even if we remind ourselves in small little moments that we can do something different, it helps. It reminds us. Meeting new people, you know, ordering something different, sitting in a different place, walking a different way to work or school or whatever you may be doing. Or you’re reminding yourself that I’m in control of this. And if I change stuff, the world is not going to end. In the general rule, it just isn’t. And that also if you don’t like what you’ve got, then why are we so scared of changing it?
If we deep down know we don’t don’t like our day to day lives a moment in our day to day that really kind of starts colouring everything else. Because that’s the other thing. Kathy, who had stayed in that marriage for 36 years. That’s one of the things she told me was that if you have one big component of your life that’s not making you happy, it was actively making you unhappy. There’s a point where it starts to colour everything else. So if you have a job that really makes you unhappy, then you go home and you take it out on your kids, you take it out your partner, you don’t want to go and see your friends at the weekend, because you’re just so low, because, you know, tomorrow, you’ve got to go back to work, there is a point where it just starts to kind of migrate into everything else and and that’s the wake up call. That’s the, ‘I need to find a way through this’, and know, and be confident in yourself that you can do it. You know, maybe not all at once. Maybe not quickly. But you can.
Rachel : Wow, there’s just so much in this, Gina, I think this is gonna be really challenging. I’m finding it very challenging. I’m sure it’s gonna be really challenging for a lot of our listeners, and I’ve just tried to think about the reasons that we don’t make those changes. And yes, there is that big, big fear, there’s that hope that things will be different. But often, it’s really mundane reasons, like, I’m just a bit too tired. I haven’t really got the time to make those changes and I might upset a few people. And that’s that’s a really bad reasons not to do things, isn’t it?
Georgina: Well, the upsetting people is that. They’re one of the main reasons for the big regrets, which I said, which is probably the most understandable one. But not always the deep down reason when we could, we could be tired, absolutely, most of us are tired, most of the time. But if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. And that’s that’s kind of going through the last couple of years and everything being so tricky, personally. That’s my daughter’s motto, find a way, because there’s nearly always another way, you just got to find it, you know?
Rachel : So in speaking to all these people, Gina, what are the sort of the, at the end of the book, you finished with sort of 10 things that you learned? What would your main sort of take home messages for people be?
Georgina: I think there are three main things that I’ve kind of kept, in my mind, ever since doing the book. I think the first one is to be honest about what we really want. And I think our gut will tell us, and we kind of deep down know. So be honest about what you really want. Change what you don’t like, and really appreciate what you do. Three really simple things. So which sometimes, are harder than it sounds, but basically, it all comes to the honesty. Do you really like doing the job that you’re doing? Do you really like the friends that surround you? Do you like the neighbourhood that you live in? You know, do you do loads of different things? Do you like the way that you think about yourself? Do you like what ambitions you have? Are they still relevant? And then basically try and think of some practical ways, practical plans to change the bits that you don’t like, and that don’t make you happy and don’t make you content.
And then to really appreciate the things that you do. Because I think sometimes we concentrate so much on the things we don’t like in our lives and the things that we wish we were doing better or more of, we actually forget what we do have, which is definitely something I’ve been guilty of in the past. And you can’t be happy when you’re so consumed in the negative side of the spectrum and not on the positive. You have to do both of those things, change what you don’t like, what doesn’t make you happy. And also just really appreciate that little bit more, that little moments, the people that really bring joy to your life, whether it’s your kids, your friends, or you know, your hobbies, going to the movies, anything. Just go, ‘I love this. I’m doing it’, and make the most of it and appreciate it.
Because we’re lucky, we’re lucky to have it who doesn’t feel like we’re lucky. Sometimes it doesn’t. It just feels hard. And seriously, I agree with that off the last couple of years. We’ve all had a last couple years where it’s been really hard. But we’re still here. We’re the lucky ones. Right? So we have to somehow in small ways appreciate.
Rachel : I totally agree. I think sometimes we do get caught up in this thing about, oh, it’s really, really selfish if I just focus on what I want and what makes me happy and et cetera, et cetera. But having observed lots of people over the years, who are really miserable, with, well, either their relationship or their job or something, actually, the world would be a much better place if they were content and happy. I don’t I do not think it’s a really selfish thing to actually make sure that you are okay and make sure that you are thriving, it is better for your family. If you’re thriving. It’s better for your patients, your colleagues, your clients if you’re thriving. It’s better for the world if you’re thriving because thriving people generally do good in the world, don’t they?
Georgina: Yeah, I completely agree. Yeah, exactly. And that whole idea, especially when you have children, I can’t go, I can’t leave them. I can’t do this. I can’t do that. To me. I’d want my kids to know that I have a life outside of, I want them to know that I have friends that I go out that I socialise, you know, there’s obviously a balance, you don’t want to be going out every night, but once a month going out with your girlfriends once a year, going away for a holiday with, with friends, that’s a really lovely thing. Because we deny stuff for ourselves that we want for other people.
We want our kids to have that lovely experience. But somehow we deny ourselves and in the process think that we’re doing a really great job when, if we’re not as happy because of it, then when we’re not. Yeah, it’s just, I don’t think it’s selfish at all. Because you are the number one in your life. If you’re completely honest, you just are. And if you’re not content and you stay unhappy, then it will spread. It spreads.
Rachel : So I was just thinking about that phrase, misery begets misery or man hangs on misery. Yeah, it’s so true, isn’t it? So we are way past our allotted time. I’m sure this is gonna be very challenging for lots and lots of people. Where would you suggest somebody even starts? If they’re thinking, ‘Okay, I do need to make the changes. I’m just stuck. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what changes need.’ What would you recommend for people?
Georgina: I would actually do two things, I would sit down with a piece of paper on my own, you can possibly do that. Give yourself a little bit of time. And write down all those things. Kind of colour breakdown your day. What things in the day do you enjoy doing? What things in the day, don’t you enjoy doing. And maybe on a wider scale as well, and break it down like health, money, house, work, everything like that, and kind of put the negatives in the bit, and, and kind of just really be strategic about it, break it down, and kind of see what you’ve got. Because I’ve done that before. And I’ve gone, I felt really unhappy, why do I feel really unhappy. And then when I sat down and actually broke down my day, every fifteen minutes, I thought, ‘You know what most of this stuff I really like doing, there’s a few moments where it actually I really don’t like doing that. And I really don’t like doing that.’
But generally, and there would have been other times in my life where I’ve gone, ‘Right, everything between eight and six is a nightmare. That might be the thing I need to change.’ Just break it down. Because I think it’s that whole going back to the honesty thing and being practical about it. Our lives take a while to evolve into what they are right now. So they’re not going to change overnight. But you know, breaking it down, working out how your days are spent. What things within those days, you look forward to what things you really really don’t like or enjoy in any way, shape, or form.
A lot of stuff we do will probably be neutral. But if it’s too far, that other negative end of the scale, we have to work out a way right now. And then the next step is basically going wait, how am I going to change that? How am I going to- You know, I’m living in this neighbourhood, I don’t feel safe in this neighbourhood. How am I going to change that? How am I going to find a way you know? Or at least how am I going to make my space feel more safe? How am I going to change my work? So that’s something I like to do, what skills do I have? Sometimes, there are so many things that maybe seem like they need changing, and you have to stop yourself. Don’t catastrophise it, don’t you know kind of go off on tangents or implode and basically go, none of it will ever change. And I don’t know where to start, this is too much. You really need to break it down. Just break it down. But the first point is just being honest and going at those different components in your life. And what would I like to change? What don’t I like?
Rachel : Fantastic tips. Thank you, Gina. Oh, it’s just been so wonderful to chat with you today. There’s so much I want to ask you. So will he come back another time?
Georgina: Yeah, of course.
Rachel: Wonderful. Wonderful.
Georgina: I hope I’ve made some sense.
Rachel : It’s just really, really challenging me to think ‘Oh, yeah. What is it that I love doing? And what is it I really don’t like doing anyway?’ So yeah, so just to suggest that listeners do that. Just sit down with a piece of paper and start writing some stuff down and just really examining your life. So Gina, if people wanted to find out more about you, how could they get hold of you? How can they get hold of the book?
Georgina: Well, I’m on Twitter. So just add @ then my full name to Gina Scull. And then the book, you can kind of buy it anywhere, really.
Rachel : So I’d really recommend getting your hands on a copy and just letting those stories really speak to you about what you could do different in your life. So thank you so much, Gina. We’ll put those links in the show notes so people can get hold of them. Thank you so much for being on and hopefully we’ll speak again soon.
Georgina: Lovely. Thanks, Rachel. Bye.
Rachel : Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now!