Finding and Living the Real American Dreams

There was a poignant and bracing link circulating on Facebook last week titled, Regrets of the Dying. It led to an article on a Web site called Inspiration and Chai and a piece written by a woman named Bronnie Ware who had spent years working in palliative care.

According to Wares account, when she questioned people who were dying about their regrets in life, the five most common themes were:

~ I wish Id had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

~ I wish I didnt work so hard.

~ I wish Id had the courage to express my feelings.

~ I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

~ I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Thoughtful and provocative, yes?

So imagine what it was like to read on the very same day a Huffington Post article about how requiring 20% down payments could make home ownership unaffordable to many families. The piece revolves around a new survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling [NFCC] a response to the proposed rule introduced by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in March -- saying that half of the 1,000 people contacted thought they would never be able to put together a 20 percent down payment to buy a home.

To that I pointedly say, so what? Why do so many of us think it is our right to own a home? And more importantly, what makes that so essential to living a full, rich life?

Further, which of these articles is really talking about the American dream? Or the global dream, for that matter?

Putting aside those whose stake in this is exceptionally high like the NFCC, the National Association of Realtors, the Mortgage Bankers Association, etc. it behooves us to take a step back and stop being so darned pragmatic. Nowhere on that list of regrets composed by Ware is one that says I wish Id had a mortgage. Nor one that says, I wish Id had a bigger house or, I wish Id gone with the granite countertops.

Goodness. Perhaps this is a chance to get some perspective.

In fact, I would put out there that if I heard a dying loved one say his only regret was never having owned a home, it might just be sweet closure to a life well lived.

What would it be like to right now, this moment, decide to go through each of the five items on Wares list and reconcile them in your life? Lets review. Youd be living on your terms, not over-working yourself, expressing your feelings, nurturing your friendships and allowing yourself to be happy. Or at least doing your best to find your way to all of those things. At that point, does it matter if youre writing a rent check or a mortgage check every month?

Ill bet all the people around you in that scenario, basking in your happiness and therefore encouraged to make their own life satisfaction a priority, wouldnt care a lick if you have a landlord.

To be clear, this is not a knock on home ownership. But it is a suggestion that we all take pause and examine what that means to us. Is it tied to our identity? Our self-worth? At one time it meant investment, but now, not necessarily. It was certainly a big piece of my parents dream, moving from the city to the suburbs and buying a home to invest in their future. And it paid off for them.

But that is still looking at it pragmatically. Between our nations scary unemployment rate, escalating natural disasters where peoples homes are leveled, and the looming 10-year anniversary of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, life feels so precious and fleeting sometimes. I cant think of a better reason to re-evaluate the American dream, both individually and as a collective.

The Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law enacted last year, from which the aforementioned proposal came, is our elected officials taking a crack at fixing what is broken in our financial system. Theyre doing their jobs. But while the democratic process is playing out, it is up to us to determine whether our goals are realistic or created from a place of societal conditioning.

What exactly is so wrong with having to save longer so you can actually afford the home you plan to buy? Isnt that much more satisfying? Ask anyone whose home owns them instead of the other way around to answer that.

There are fruitful paths we can walk that shape a real American dream of maximizing our gifts, living our potential, being there for loved ones, cultivating meaningful relationships and making authenticity a priority. Thats something to think about today.

Im betting that wont be on your list of regrets.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to