While working as an Australian nurse in palliative care, Bronnie Ware was caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She spoke with the patients and recorded their epiphanies at the very end of their lives.
People have shared their thoughts on regrets they have about their lives. Here are the top 5 regrets Bronnie observed:
💔 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 half their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
💔 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 had 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.”
What can we learn from this?
For sure, a lot of us are not planning to die in the nearest time and we might think we have the luxury to still have lots of time to fulfill our dreams and achieve great goals in our careers, a lot of us are hustling to earn money today because we leave our happiness and content lives with less work for later. Or we think we’ll have time for our families and friends later. Or we suck our feelings and thoughts, because we think this will keep us from those unpleasant conflicts, but carry all the anger, disappointment, and feeling unvalued and unheard for years.
Notice, there are no regrets about not having a career those people wanted or not earning enough money. Or not having other material things or conditions in their lives. There are also no regrets about not having the power or reputation.
The observations Bronnie Ware made while speaking with her patients are collected in the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, published more than 10 years ago in 2011.
I have only discovered this book now and am so lucky I have.
Those 5 regrets have become my most important personal life and happiness check-list:
- ❓ Do I have the courage to live true to myself and not the life others expect of me?
- ❓ Do I work just the right amount?
- ❓ Do I have the courage to express my feelings?
- ❓ Do I stay in touch with my friends enough?
- ❓ Do I let myself be happy?
While there are still some changes to be made in order for me to answer “100% yes” to every question in this list, I feel the track has been laid and I know where I am headed 🙂
Love you all! 💛
Allow yourselves to be happy and check in with yourself on those questions. I hope you’ll live content lives in all the aspects that matter.