This may seem like a morbid post, but in fact, I think it’s inspiring. I don’t know where you sit on the spectrum of dealing with death, specifically you’re own, but after reading what Bronnie Ware uncovered, it made me think about life in the affirmative.
As a nurse, Bronnie Ware spent several years caring for patients during the last 12 weeks of their lives. She would routinely ask them if they had any regrets or if they’d do anything differently.
She eventually wrote a book about it called, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. And here is what she said they had to say:
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 a 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 realise, until they no longer have it.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
“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.”
I hate the thought of getting to the end and having any of these regrets. Number five touched me the most – ‘I wish that I had let myself be happier.’ Which is not to say that I’m sad or depressed. But that I’m always thinking that I haven’t done enough. I feel the need to achieve more and more instead of just chilling out and smelling the roses.
I was thinking today that life is about having experiences. The more experiences the better. Forget about the superficial search for purpose and passion. And instead seek to have experiences for no other reason than to have experiences.
What is your greatest regret so far and what can you do now to change so that you don’t end up in a place of regret.