Top 5 Regrets of the dying

Bronnie Ware is a nurse. She is Australian and spent several years working with patients who were terminally ill, giving them palliative care.

Over her time working in this field and literally working with people on their death beds, she recorded the top five regrets that they had. It wasn’t necessarily the things they had done, but the things that they hadn’t done during their lifetime.

And it’s not necessarily the things you might expect. Wouldn’t it be amazing if, by knowing this, we can make sure we don’t have any of these regrets when we get to that moment of our lives, looking back.

This is what Bronnie observed as the top five regrets of the dying:

No 1 – ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me’.

Living your life the way others think you should is unlikely to make you happy or feel fulfilled. I’m reminded of the Gestalt ‘prayer’ or statement, which whilst having no direct religious link, sums this up beautifully:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.

No 2 – ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

This has much to do with life and work balance, I suspect. Spending time with friends and family, being with their children as they grow. All the money in the world won’t get that time back. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

No 3 – “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings”.

When we are able to express our feelings, the positive knock-on effect is often very tangible. It can feel good to get things off our chests, can’t it? If we can always have a healthy and honouring way of expressing how we feel, we are more likely to have stronger relationships with those we love. Suppressing feeling in order to keep the peace with others, is unlikely to bring peace to you.

At the end of the day, what’s to be scared of? Think about the Gestalt prayer above, and how it too, relates to this.

No 4 – “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”.

This is an easy one to let happen, isn’t it. Life has a habit of getting in the way. We let petty arguments or disagreements ruin a good friendship. Sometimes it’s just that we don’t realise what we’ve got until it’s gone.

We have to make time for people who are important in our lives. We never know when they won’t be there anymore and picking up the phone is no longer an option. Do it now, while it’s not too late.

No 5 – “I wish that I had let myself be happier”.

So many people don’t realise that being happy is something that you can choose. Change you thinking. Get out of those old habits and patterns. Change what no longer suits you.

It’s not necessarily easy, but it is possible. I work with people all the time to do just that, so if you don’t know how to do it by yourself, find someone who can guide you. Let yourself be happier. After all, you don’t want to be looking back at your life with these same regrets, do you?