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The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying


Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. As many of her patients approached their final days, she would ask if they had regrets or things they would do differently.

Ware was so surprised by the phenomenal clarity of vision people gained at the end of their lives that she began documenting their responses.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

*Photo by Rosie O’Beirne, Creative Commons

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

This list hit me like a ton of bricks. I hope it did the same for you.

It’s remarkable how small things that don’t actually matter can dominate our days. They seem so innocent at first. A few extra hours in the office. Forgetting to call our friends back. Bottling up our emotions. Choosing a job you don’t enjoy for higher pay.

These small decisions, while completely rational, slowly but surely pull us away from the things that matter most.

I’d like you to do two things for me:

1. In the comment section below, write out what on this list hit you hardest.

      Then write the one thing you’re going to do to change it. Be specific. You’ll see mine in the comment section too.

2. Go tell someone so they can keep you accountable.
Tell your spouse, children, roommate, or best friend about the thing you’re going to do to ensure you live your life without any of these five regrets.

Go ahead. Call someone. Send a quick email, text, or Facebook message and tell someone you love how he or she can help you.

I look forward to seeing your responses.

*Originally reported by Susie Steiner from The Guardian

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Heaton permalink
    2012/12/26 11:35 am

    The item on the list that hit me the hardest is the concept that happiness is a choice. I have many blessings in my life and often focus on something negative which creates unhappiness.

    I will work to change this negative habit by focusing on being grateful for good things both large and small. Life is going by very quickly. Thank for for this wake up call.

  2. Mag permalink
    2012/12/26 12:12 pm

    Very enlightening.

  3. Dory permalink
    2012/12/27 1:20 pm

    What hit me most is “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” While i was trying to build a career so that my children and my husband can look up to me, I failed to enjoy my children’s precious growing years. The next thing I knew, they were already leading their own lives. And as to my husband? He never really cared!

  4. HallieBoo permalink
    2012/12/31 9:00 am

    I accepted my path with no regrets. I dealt with the pain of my circumstances and now live the life I want. I make decisions with the thought…would I want to get to the end of my life and not do that…my answer governs my action. Its not perfect but it is mine!

  5. Mo Calderone permalink
    2013/01/02 7:34 am

    To be able to express feelings to those I’m in a relationship

  6. 2013/01/02 9:31 am

    What hit me most was, “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

    I often look at the poem I keep next to my monitor by Charles Hanson Towne. It goes like this:

    Around the corner I have a friend,
    In this great city that has no end;
    Yet days go by, and weeks rush on,
    And before I know it a year is gone,
    And I never see my old friend’s face,
    For life is a swift and terrible race.

    He knows I like him just as well
    As in the days when I rang his bell
    And he rang mine. We were younger then,
    And now we are busy, tired men:
    Tired with playing a foolish game,
    Tired with trying to make a name.

    “Tomorrow,” I say, “I will call on Jim,
    Just to show I am thinking of him.”
    But tomorrow comes – and tomorrow goes,
    And the distance between us grows and grows.
    Around the corner! – yet miles away . .
    “Here’s the telegram, Sir. . .
    ‘Jim died today’.”

    And that’s what we get, and deserve in the end:
    Around the corner, a vanished friend.

    Friends are one of the most important aspects of life and telling them so is something you should never forget.

  7. Sandy permalink
    2013/01/02 11:48 am

    The first one. Happiness is a choice. I am waiting for the one thing that is going to make me happy, forgetting that happiness is a state of mind. We choose to be happy, or not……

  8. Cindy permalink
    2013/07/17 6:32 am

    Wonderful post.

  9. Stev E Mann permalink
    2014/08/09 6:09 am

    Live your life as if there were no future
    As if there were no past
    For there is only now
    And it goes by so fast

    Peter Loveman

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