Recently I read an interesting article by an Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware. She catalogued the biggest regrets of her dying patients and identified the most common issues. Her life was transformed by the experience, and it might be that we can use it as well to evaluate our priorities.
The only thing guaranteed in life
We will all die one day. That is 100% guaranteed! Still – many of us are working too much, focusing on unimportant things and living our lives as if we will live forever. Have you ever asked yourself what YOU don’t want to regret on your last day? If you actually think about that, the answer might help you rearrange the priorities today that determine where and how you will spend your precious time and avoid regrets later.
Surprisingly, if I were to ask each of you that question today (What things do you not want to regret on your last day, or wish you’d done differently in life?), most of you would immediately be able to list 2-5 things. Why then, if we already know these things today, do we so often not do anything about it?
This is illogical – don’t you agree? We know the things that are important to us and that we don’t want to regret on our last day, but still live our lives ignoring them or not doing enough to live differently.
The biggest regrets in life people have before they die
These are five most common regrets witnessed by Bronnie Ware:
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 realize 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 honored even 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 realize, 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 had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize 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 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 themselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
Ask yourself this tough question
Imagine that today is your last day in this world.
- What are the things you would not want to regret on this last day?
- Keeping in mind your answers to the first question –what would you have had to change in your past life, to avoid those regrets?
Your answers, if you are honest, should help you to establish priorities today that will keep you from having regrets later.
Write you answers down and plan necessary changes into your schedule and life so you can start living the life now that you don’t want to regret later.
Don’t wait for a better day. Today is the first day of the rest of your life – there will never be a better time to start changing your life!
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