In 2009, blogger Bronnie Ware wrote a blog drawing on her eight years working as a palliative nurse, looking after terminally ill people. In it, she listed the five recurring regrets that her patients expressed at the end of their lives. Here they are below: they might make for slightly gloomy reading, but they are a very good reminder that time won’t wait for us, and of the subsequent importance to enjoy every moment, and to make the right choices, according to what we really want to do and to be.
”I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Life can sometime be seen as a series of actions made under pressure, from society, from family, from ourselves, because we’ve internalised from a young age what others expect from us. With the result of many reaching the end of their lives feeling unfulfilled, because they repressed their true nature and didn’t dare to live the life they really wanted. So be true to yourself and try to honour your dreams- don’t let others dictate what you should be doing: this is your life, not theirs. And your life is your choice.
“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
According to Bronnie Ware’s this is a major regret: having spent too much time at work at the expense of partners and children. Workaholics will know the feeling: whether they’re working too much because they’re people pleasers, or always wanting more (money, fame, recognition…), they end up spending more time on their desk than with the people who are closest them. How many of us then justify it by saying things like: “It’s true, I haven’t been that present when my kids were growing up, but I gave them a private education, all the toys they wanted, great holidays…”? All great, but then, time spent with closed ones is the most precious of all.
“I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings.”
Many of Bronnie’s patients complained about repressing their feelings: to keep the peace, because it seemed “easier”, because they didn’t want to take risks (of being criticised, or rejected). The problem with repressed emotions is that, even if you sweep them under the rug and ignore the, they have a way of getting back at you: not only through bitterness and anger, but also through illnesses. And ultimately with the regret of having had an unfulfilled life.
“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
When people look back at the end of their lives, some of their best memories are of good time spent with good friends. Friends are here to support us through tough times, make us laugh, educate us, challenge us, and hence are a very precious commodity. However, it’s so easy to lose touch- because you’re too busy or living in different countries or because our lifestyles are too different. Yet, many of the dying regretted having neglected their best, oldest, closest friends, and going to their death knowing that was too late to amend.
“I wish I had let myself be happier.”
Happiness is a state of mind: we can choose to be happy, by being ourselves, spending time with close ones, enjoying every little joyful moments. Happiness is not dependent on materialistic achievements or special encounters (“I’ll be able to relax and be happy once I get that promotion”, “I will find happiness once I meet the man/woman of my dream”…). Happiness is a choice and within ourselves. Yet, many people choose to see the glass half empty and to be unhappy, and realise once it’s too late, like Bronnie Ware’s patients, that they had happiness at their fingertips but let it slip.
So, what would be your top 5 regrets? And most importantly, what can you do, from now on, to live a life well lived so they never become things to regret?