Life is short - live without regret, says Kristina Karlsson, founder of stationery brand Kikki K, in her new book. Here's how to live the life you want

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As long as I can remember, I’ve always felt that life is short. The days fly by and every year seems to move faster. Do you feel that sometimes too? It’s one of the reasons why I believe it’s so important for us all to really take the time to think intentionally about what we want our dream life to be so that we can create a clear path to follow.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing is a truly moving and inspiring book by Bronnie Ware and well worth reading. Bronnie worked in palliative care for many years and she captured what she learnt and her experiences with her patients in the book. Among them, she noted that the top five regrets of her dying patients were:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard, and so much.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings more.
  4. I wish I’d been better at staying in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The one statement from the list above that clearly resonates with me is about working so hard. It’s something I am always very conscious of as I do think about work a lot. Right now, one of the things I’m working on is to be better at switching off from work when I’m at home. This means not checking emails and being more present with my family. I can’t give myself a tick as being perfect yet, but the right habit is forming as I’m moving towards living the way I want to live. It’s all about progress and not perfection, after all.

So, which statements from the list above resonate with you? There is so much to learn from people who are approaching the end of their lives, and these statements are a great reminder of the importance of living your own authentic life. A life you can look back on and be proud of, where you can say that you were true to your values, passions and dreams.


Often it’s in moments when we’re exposed to death, tragedy or tough circumstances that we humans feel our mortality and finally understand what is truly important to us. This is the silver lining around the cloud of unfortunate circumstances and these exercises below are about how you can tap into the concept of regret to gain a unique perspective into your dreams so you can intentionally shape your future.

I don’t want to waste my time. I don’t want to spend it doing things that I don’t believe in.

It’s so easy to get caught up spending time and energy on things that, when you stop and think about it, aren’t really that important to you or aren’t truly in line with your values. I often hear people talk about being in jobs they don’t enjoy or in relationships that are toxic.

If someone told you how many hours, days, weeks and years you had left to live, would that change the way you live?

How would you feel if you knew you had only three years left? What if it was only one year? What would you make more time for? What would you do with your life?

I find thinking about the time I have left and how I want to use it really focuses my mind. I don’t want to waste my time. I don’t want to spend it doing things that I don’t believe in.

I don’t want to compromise on my values. I want to be the best person I can be, living a life I love and making a contribution to the lives of others.

If you live to be 100 years old, you will have 1,200 months to live in total.

A great thing to do now is to work out how many months you might have left to do everything you want to do in your life. Simply subtract your age from 100, then multiply that number by twelve to give you a rough idea.

For example, that means someone who is thirty years old now has 840 months to go. It doesn’t seem like much, but I find it so inspiring to think about what I want to do with those years, months, weeks and days in order to make the most of my life. Take a moment to calculate that now for yourself and write the numbers down.

100 years old minus my age today of _______ = _______ x 12 = _________ months ahead for me!

How does this make you feel? Some people tell me they find this a little morbid, but I find it to be the exact opposite. It’s so powerful, so inspiring and so worth doing.

I recently shared the concept with a twenty-two-year-old friend of mine, who is currently at university and not exactly sure what to do with her life. Her response was passionate and excited. ‘I’ve never stopped before to think about the fact that my time is limited. I love understanding that,’ she said. ‘I’ve been thinking about living overseas and it prompted me to discuss the idea with my mother. She told me I had to follow my heart.’

The undeniable fact is we will all die at some point, so my recommendation is to accept the truth and let it inspire us to make the most of this one precious life we all have.

A few months ago, I led dinner guests through my 101 Dreams exercise during an evening I hosted. I love the example of one friend who had founded and grown a wonderful business and had been busy for years making that dream happen, before selling it to embrace other things in life. I just loved one of the dreams she shared for this new stage of her life, which was to buy a sewing machine to rediscover the simple joy of creating with her own hands.

Tap into your heart, think about what it is that you do not want to regret. Think about what’s truly important to you and what’s not important at this stage of your life. Take those learnings on board as you imagine how your dream life looks. A full and happy life – one without regrets.


1. Think about the five common regrets of the dying you read earlier. Re-read them.

  • Do any of them resonate with you right now? Which ones? Why?
  • What simple actions could you take right now to avoid regrets and move you closer towards your dream life?

2. If you knew you were going to die in three years from now – and that you would live with perfect health until then...

  • What would you do with your remaining years?
  • What would you start doing?
  • What would you stop doing?
  • What would be the theme of those three years?

Now take a coloured pen and circle your answers that would apply if those three years were reduced to just twelve months. This should give you real clarity on the most important things to you...

  • What would be the theme of those twelve months?

3. For this last exercise, you’ll need to stop and take a deep breath. Clear your mind and tap into your imagination and your heart. Our reason for doing this exercise is to give you a slightly different perspective on regret – in fact, I want you to move past regret and imagine that you’re living a life without regret.

  • Now, in your mind, lean into the future and imagine yourself at ninety years of age. You look well, healthy, happy, calm and wise. Imagine your wrinkles. Your distinguished grey hair. Look at the twinkle in your ninety-year-old eyes. Really feel what it’s like to be you at ninety.
  • Now that you are your ninety-year-old self, think about and write your answer to the following question:
  • What achievements are you most proud of as you look back over your wonderful life?

Over the next few days, ponder on your answers to the above questions. Add anything else that comes to mind. Collectively, the answers and thoughts you’ve written in these exercises will give you some great clues as to what is most important to you when the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life is stripped away.

What you have in front of you now is a great place for you to focus and it’ll give you wonderful input to look back on later in your journey towards creating your dream life.

This is an extract taken from Your Dream Life Starts Here, written by the founder of stationery brand Kikki K, Kristina Karlsson.  Buy yours here