Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Recently I read a book called The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie is an Australian nurse who has spent many years caring for patients in their last 12 weeks of their lives.

She originally kept a blog recording their dying epiphanies, then following the popularity of this blog, she ended up writing a book that detailed the top 5 regrets of the dying from these epiphanies.

In this article, I want to present the 5 regrets of the dying and how you can learn from these ‘end of life’ epiphanies.

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

According to Bronnie, “This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams ahve gone unfulfilled.”

The eye-opening thing to note is that most people that Bronnie observed had not even honoured even half of their dreams, and had to die knowing that they could have acheived these if it were not for choices they had regretted making.

The thing is, when we are healthy, we have enormous freedom and time that very few people can properly appreciate, until we no longer have it.

Letting your life meander on, or putting more emphasis on achieving others’ expectations of you could mean sacrificing your dreams, and your destiny that you were meant to fulfil.

Regret #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.”

Bearing in mind that most of the patients that Bronnie nursed were from an older generation where the breadwinners were often males, women who did work also spoke of this regret.

Being a father of 2 now, and having a wife that I love so much, I can see how this can easily happen.

Kids grow up very fast, and when you are trying to save for many different things (the next house, children’s schooling, etc), it’s easy to find yourself putting aside family time in favor of getting things done at work.

Personally I’m very thankful for what my business has brought me in terms of the freedom to be able to spend more time with my kids, go on vacations and so forth. I don’t know where I’d be if I was trapped in a job that I didn’t like, having to work overtime hours trying to make ends meet for the family.

That is unfortunately the way of life for many people and it can be challenging to move outside of this.

Just remember though… The time for happiness is (and always was) NOW.

You can put a price on a house, on food, on education, but you can’t put a price on time missed with your partner, your children and other loved ones.

Always find time. Some way. Some how.

Don’t let work/family life fall out of balance.

Regret #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.”

You were put on this earth for a reason, and if you don’t live true to yourself and speak up for yourself, then while you mean to keep peace, most of the time you’ll actually be stunting the growth of your relationships with yourself and with others.

Regret #4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

“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.”

I don’t necessarily advocate living every day as if it were your last, but make sure that from time to time, you look at your life and ask yourself the question, if I were to die tomorrow … have I been spending as much time with my family and friends as I should have, or would there be regrets?

Several different research studies have proven that the number one factor contributing to human happiness is the strength of your close friendships.

There have been many studies that back up what I’ve been saying about the importance of strong social connections on human health and wellbeing. For instance, in 2007, the American Journal of Public Health published the results of a survey of 24,000 workers. Their results showed that the men and women with the weakest social ties were the most likely to suffer from major depressive symptoms.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you have one or more close friendships, what matters is the strength of the connections that you do form with friends and relatives and how often you spend time cooperating in activities and sharing your personal feelings with them.

Just to reiterate, it’s not the quantity of your interpersonal relationships, it’s the quality that counts.

Regret #5. I wish 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.”

If you have any trouble being happy right NOW, then it’s time you started preparing a gratitude journal. Every day write down 3 things about the world and/or your life that you are grateful for. It might be your spouse, it might be the fact that you have 2 legs, there are many obvious and less obvious things in this world to be grateful for, and when you bring them to your conscious attention on a daily basis, you’ll find yourself immensely happier as a result.

Concluding thoughts…

If you think that you are not living according to what you want with your life, then NOW is the time to change for the better. Ask yourself what you want so that you can finally start enjoying your life.

Remember that we are given one chance to live out our destiny and to make a difference to the world.

It’s your life, and how it plays out is a direct function of the choices that YOU make.

Choose to be true to yourself, work hard in a profession that you are passionate about, but DON’T let your life become a treadmill of ‘work’ – especially not in a career that you were not destined for, choose to spend more time with your family and friends, choose to express your feelings, choose to be happy… NOW.

I hope you enjoyed this article, I’m looking forward to your comments below.

Also if you wish to get yourself a copy of this brilliant book, here’s a link: The top 5 regrets of the dying

Kind regards,
Mark Ling
Founder of MindTracks