You want to live your best life. Who doesn’t? But we don’t always know how. Australian author Bronnie Ware gives insight with her global bestseller, “The 5 Top Regrets of the Dying.” Having spent 8 years as a palliative nurse in hospice, she realized there are 5 universal regrets people with little time have…
#1: “I wasn’t true to myself” – This is the most common. Many people don’t go after their dreams. They do what they think is expected and tow the line, even though their heart longs for something else.
Interestingly, this regret was heard more from women. Many had lived a traditional life of homemaker. They lamented not becoming more independent. Some wished they had gone back to school or started their own business, especially when their children had grown. Instead, they turned away from their dreams. Some thought pursuing their goals was selfish and they put it off.
At one point or another, we’re all guilty of thinking we have too much time, rather than too little. It’s easy to let days pass and suddenly see a year gone. Meanwhile, we’ve stayed “safe” in our rut, whether a dead-end job, an unfulfilling relationship, or an uninspired routine. We become immobile.
#2:“I worked too much” – No one in hospice ever wished they had spent more time at their desk. Many regretted not allowing themselves to play, explore the world, or learn new things.
This was especially true for men. Some missed their children growing up. Many wished they had had a closer relationship with their spouse. They labored too hard, skipped vacations and got burnt out. Some men, reflecting at this last stage, even said they would’ve made less money, if they could’ve given themselves more fun.
Bronnie Ware’s book reminds me that work will always be there, but not that sunset or spending a few extra moments with your kids.
#3: “I never expressed my feelings” –Many in hospice, especially the elderly, grew up in a world where showing vulnerability, anger, and fear was not done. It wasn’t manly to cry. It wasn’t womanly to show rage.
Some people developed illnesses from resentment building up.
The good news is young people today are encouraged to express feelings. Schools have anti-bullying programs. There is less stigma in seeing a therapist. There is an abundance of television, books and movies about personal problems and how to solve them.
The message is…if we love someone, we should tell them. If something is troubling us, we should speak up.
#4: “I lost touch with loved ones” – We’ve all had challenging relationships and we’ve let people go, sometimes for the better. But the dying regretted losing some of the good people in their lives due to misunderstanding. They let feuds fester. They were too proud to reach out.
Sometimes they were too busy to maintain friendships. The regret of lost friends pops up many times in hospice. In the end, people realized how precious these relationships were.
#5: “I never let myself be happy” – People on their deathbeds have a chance to review their lives. So many lament how they ignored tugs from the heart, which Bronnie says is our intuition.
Some had urges to talk to a certain person or take that college course. Some wanted to explore Europe. They were curious. Instead they turned back, afraid.
Bronnie says we should pay attention to our longings. Often they light the path for what’s next in our lives. She even believes our desires can be messages from the soul.
Once in a while, I decide to let my heart tell me what to do for the day. I always have a better time than when the brain (with its schedules and to-lists) is in charge. It’s hard to let go of the must-do’s. But if we let our heart guide us, we end up with a different, more enriching experience.
In the end, it takes courage to be true to yourself.
Sometimes it means stepping away from tradition or what’s expected. Sometimes it means walking away from constant work or speaking your truth. It might mean you want to reach out to someone, but are afraid of being rebuffed. According to those at the end of life, you should do it anyway.
As Bronnie Ware has discovered…life goes faster than we think.
Take those chances.
What are your thoughts on this fascinating study? Comments are always welcome and thank you for reading and sharing.