There’s a study conducted by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who tended to the infirm and elderly during her career. She recorded the most common regrets of the dying and found that the same things kept showing up as regrets at the end of people’s lives…
With men, for example, the top regret was the amount of time they had spent working – most wished ‘they hadn’t worked so hard’.
Maybe we can learn something about how to conduct our own lives from these eye-opening findings:
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.”
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.”
Perhaps we should learn some lessons from this some regrets of the dying. We need to take a closer look at the amount of time we are spending working, talk more about the truth of what we want, realise how valuable our friends are and cherish them now – not later, and best of all to know that happiness is a choice – a choice we can all make regardless of what’s going on around us.
Live happy and well today.