The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Regrets - Hari Kalymnios

I know, it sounds like a bit of a morbid title. But really you should be inspired. Why? Because you are about to receive an amazing gift.

A gift?

Yes. You are about to learn – right now – what it took many others their entire lives to learn. You will succeed where they failed.

An article appeared in a British newspaper several years ago about an Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware, who had been helping the elderly as they neared the end of their life. And she interviewed them. Well, got to know them pretty well and asked them lots of questions.

And she wrote a book about her experience with them called… The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

And because it’s the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, I think it’s the best time to take a look at this list and pause for reflection. So here they are.

1) Courage to live the life they had wanted

This is the top regret. Not living the life they had wanted. They lived lives they thought others (parents, friends, society, whomever) had wanted. Notice I say they thought others had wanted. Sometimes – in fact quite often, it’s not said “You should be a lawyer/accountant/doctor/fill in the blank” but a person may think that’s what’s expected. I had this conversation with my parents recently. They didn’t quite “get it”. They never pushed me to do anything really – whether that was choice of A Levels, degree or otherwise, but coupled with my successes in certain subjects, how I perceived my friends and family perceived me and societal conditioning, I made choices that perhaps looking back I might not have done. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% happy now with those choices – they’ve all led to me writing this to you right now. But I can’t help think that had there been more encouragement and exploration to find and then “follow your bliss” (as Joseph Campbell says) most people would take different paths.

This regret is all about taking the risk, the chances to live how YOU want to live. Not others. You want to start that company, become an actor, write a screenplay. Do it! Don’t wait until you get to the end of your life before doing it.

2) Wish they hadn’t worked as hard

This one I really can relate to already. No-one got to their deathbed and thought “Gosh, I wish I’d spent more time at work!” No, it was about spending more time with friends, family, doing the things they loved, learning, exploring and so on. Not working.

Sure, we all have to make a living. But don’t let making a living interfere with creating a life. I, early on, got this concept. I never got caught up too much in the “rat race” as it were. I didn’t really ever throw myself into my career at the expense of other important things of my life. Many do though. Are you missing out on your children growing up? Are you neglecting your health? What else is the time that you’re spending at work costing you? This regret went for all males Bronnie interviewed, but I suspect that women are catching up too.

3) Wish they had had the courage to express their feelings

Too many of us (myself included sometimes) bottle things up. We don’t say how we truly feel. Not only can this be detrimental to our physical health, but at the end of our life we might be like one of the interviewees and regret not expressing ourselves fully.

What can you do to improve this?

4) Wish they had stayed in touch more with their friends

I see this as beginning already. Once you hit your 30’s and beyond (at least for me and those I’m familiar with) you start to loose touch with people. Kids, careers, different paths – they all contribute. It’s a tricky one – balancing it all, but it’s got to be done. Having friends that you can count on, that you can share the good and bad times with is vitally important. Both for your health and so you don’t live (or die) with the regret that these folks had.

Perhaps your New Year’s Resolution is to keep more in contact with your friends. I know that social media helps and can even be thought of as a substitute, but really it pales in comparison to face to face contact and connection.

You and your friends may well be on different paths, but it’s still a good idea to re-connect from time to time and perhaps the relationship will evolve to where it serves you both.

5) Wish they had let themselves be happier

They realised too late that happiness is a choice and that they wish they had let themselves be happier. Wow! That’s intense. Here’s the thing though. Happiness is a choice. You might not realise it but how you feel is up to you. For more on this, I suggest reading these blog posts on it:

Well, that’s the lot.

This information can be immensely useful to you. How are you going to use it though?

What do you think?