Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Avoiding the Big Regrets

To live intentionally, it’s worth exploring the topic of long-term perspective and avoiding the typical regrets that happen at the end of life.  “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, by Bronnie Ware provides insight. 

Ms. Ware worked as a provider of end of life care and compiled a list of the common regrets she heard from those whom died in her care.

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 Ms. Ware, many people had not honored half of their dreams and realized it was too late to take actions to fulfill their dreams. 

Regret #2:  “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”  Free-time can be elusive.  Our free-time will be taken by work, by television, or simply by happenstance.  Also, perhaps we can find work that brings us joy, passion, and freedom. 

Regret #3:  “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” We can look at our most important relationships and rate ourselves on communicating authentically. 

Regret #4:  “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”  Ms. Ware tells us that in the last few weeks of their lives, many folks began to think of their old friends and wanting to contact them.  Unfortunately, a few weeks does not always leave enough time to find their friends. Many people expressed deep regrets about not staying in touch with the friends they missed as they were dying.  Most of our lives are spent keeping up with financial issues and practical tasks, but according to Ms. Ware, it all came down to love and relationships in the end.

Regret #5:  “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”  This regret surprised me when I first saw it on the list.  Ms. Ware mentioned that this regret is surprisingly common as many people don’t realize happiness is a choice until they are dying.  Not surprisingly, many of her patients had been stuck in old habits and patterns.  For years, people had been pretending that they were pursuing happiness and were content in their lives.  However, their fears had been holding them back from laughing, being silly, and taking life less seriously.  With death looming imminently, the judgments and opinions of others seem very unimportant. 

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