I read the most amazing article today. Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative nurse has collated the most common regrets her patients had in the last few weeks of their lives. She published their dying epiphanies in her blog titled ‘Inspiration and Chai’.
At first this may sound morbid – but I ask you to stick with me because it really is a very insightful tale. And you may be surprised to see what comes out on top of her list of common regrets.
It’s interesting that Bronnie noticed her patients gaining a phenomenal ‘clarity of vision’ at the end of their lives and that the same themes would arise again and again for different patients.
Here are the top 5 regrets that Bronnie witnessed during her time as a palliative nurse:
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 realise 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 honoured 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 realise, until they no longer have it.”
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.”
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.
4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends
“Often they would not truly realise 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.”
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise 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.”
This really poses the question – what regrets would you have if today was the last day of your life? And more to the point – do you stop and spend time thinking about where your life is heading – or do you let life pull you in all directions, regardless of what you really want?
Steve Jobs had the incredible insight to look at himself in the mirror every morning and ask himself this very question – “If today was the last day of my life, would I do what I am about to do today?”. If the answer was no for too many days in a row he would force himself to make some changes. While this approach may be a little extreme – the man certainly ensured he lived a fulfilling life!
Simple Life Strategy: how to live a life without regrets
- STOP. And imagine yourself way off 20 or 30 years in the future. Look back at your current situation (your career, your family, your friends, your passions) and with the clarity of foresight ask yourself “Am I truly happy with my life?”
- Extend this to “Would I be proud of my life if it ended tomorrow?”
- If the answer is no, it’s time to make some changes while you still have the opportunity. The reality is that life can pass us by all too quickly and before we know it we have missed out living the lives we truly wanted. As someone very wise once told me:
“There’s nothing more expensive than a missed opportunity”
If you’re serious about achieving the life you’ve always wanted, then contact me to find out more about my coaching programs. The first step is identifying what you’re genuinely passionate about and then putting together an action plan to turn it into reality.
About Bronnie Ware:
Bronnie Ware is a writer and songwriter from Australia who spent years caring for dying people in their homes. She recently released a full-length book titled ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Daerly Departed’. It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for. For more information, please visit Bronnie’s official website at www.bronnieware.com or her blog at www.inspirationandchai.com
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