Bronnie Ware wrote about her experience as a palliative nurse taking care of those who were dying. She gathered her research and wrote a book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. An excerpt from her book is in an article at her website here.
Here are her findings with some added tips on how to avoid each of these sad regrets:
- “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. It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
- Devote an hour a day, a day a week – and actually, even 5 minutes a day or an hour a week would suffice – to imaginative play. Get very relaxed and comfortable and permit your dreams to flood your thoughts, and your emotions. Let your imagination be free to visualize them as real and present. And if you don’t have dreams – consciously – as yet spend some time reflecting on what you’d like to do, to be and to accomplish. Turn your dream into fodder for your imaginative play
- Write your dreams
- Expand on your writing and include the action steps needed to make them real
- Take action daily and be GRATEFUL for each step taken
- Tell someone – get an accountability partner!
- Celebrate your weekly or monthly accomplishments and benchmarks.
2. “I wish I didn’t work 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.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.”
- Set some guard rails – like the ones on the highways that keep us from the dangers of the edge. Set limits for work hours per day and per week
- Keep your word and be accountable
- Plan activities with loved ones an ask them to hold you to it
- Read about living a balanced life in the 5 vital venues of life here.
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.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win”
- Practice expressing yourself in easier situations first and build up to the more challenging ones
- Set a goal to express something to someone once a day or once a week
- Write your feelings and read the out loud
- If speaking is too much at first, write letters
- Take on other challenges and core issues in your life to build up your overall courage.
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.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.”
- Just do it! – Call, skype, txt, write, email, visit as often as you can…just do it!
- Set weekly goals and just do it!
- Let your friends and family know you are trying to do better…let them know your intentions
- Forgive all.
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.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.”
- Do a life examination…on a scale of 1-10 how happy are you? In the 5 vital venues of life (Self, Home, Relationships, Work/school, Community/Place of Worship) how happy are you?
- As you ask and answer this question, do not replace “happy” with “content”
- Anything less than a “9”…reflect on why it is so and commit to making the necessary adjustments.
- Reflect on what your dreams are (#1) and see where you can incorporate those action steps into your daily life.
- Have an intention to be happy, and even more to be filled with joy each day. Joy is deeper and better than happiness because it’s not dependent upon happenings and daily situations. Joy stays and it is a choice you can make right in the middle of turmoil.
My prayer is that you live your life with joy, and commitment to a life of ‘no regrets.’ To do that, you have to be determined and committed to daily actions; you have to BE all that you seek.
It’s never too late to have a change of heart and live fully. Start in this very moment! If you do, you will bring joy not just to you but to the world.
Wishing you an abundance of joy, love and light,