George Ambler

Helping Leaders Grow

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The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie Ware is an Australian palliative care nurse who provides specialised medical care for people who are in the last 12 weeks of their lives. Whilst working with dying people, Bonnie recorded the dying thoughts of her patient on her blog Inspiration and Chai, which got so much attention the she wrote a book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”. The top five regrets of people on their deathbed were:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Reflecting on this list I would summarise Bronnie’s advice as “don’t spend your time living someone else’s life”.

These top five regrets, reflect the life lived by modern man, a life lived in response to the dreams, visions and goals of others. Living a life reacting to circumstances and events.

what are you busy about?

These regrets are the result of things you fail to do, these regrets are the result of apathy, the result of a life lived on auto pilot, the result of a life lived by default. When you live life on auto pilot you give up your dreams, sideline your friends, ignore your happiness and neglect your family.

To avoid having these regrets you need to make a new set of commitments. You need decide to live life deliberately and with intention.

  1. Decide to live your dreams whilst you still have your health.
  2. Don’t work too much. Get off the treadmill of endless work.
  3. Take time to express your feelings to those you love and to those who care about you.
  4. Cultivate friendships. Don’t let your friendships slip.
  5. Happiness is a choice. Make the decision to be happy every day

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23 Comments

  1. James G Hunt

    At 82 I can relate to all of the five statements of regrets but would rank them differently. For me they would be ranked as follows: 3,5,4,2,1. I’ve spent time reflecting on “end do life issues” and believe I know part of the answers that lead to my having these feelings of regret but know that there is no longer time for me to more than understand them. I can, however, and am attempting to alter how I now live to make the next few years better than the 82 already gone. Wish me luck as I move forward.

    • Carla

      Wish you great luck, James. Go for it. You can start with a clean slate at amy time in your life; the important thing is to start and begin anywhere!

    • Richard

      Here is my Golden Rule Of Life: To Thine Own Self Be True.

      Follow that guideline and you will never have any regrets. At 70 years of age, I have none.

    • Bill

      I believe it’s best to leave regrets by the wayside, but at the same time, try to avoid having them in the future. I’m 70 already, I never dwell on regrets, and for the last 15 years or so, I have basically practiced happiness. We will always make a few mistakes, just try to find a way to correct them. If we have good health, we can’t afford to regret, it will damage your health.

    • Glenn

      Live in your remaining moments James. Try not to dwell on what could have been, or what should have been. Appreciate what is. Do not dwell on the past or the future, focus on the now. Live in the moments you have left. By doing so you can slow down “time”, quite your mind, and come to know the real you…perhaps for then first time.

    • Ai Lee

      Mr Hunt, I wish you the health and, if necessary, the wealth to live the rest of your life in happiness.

    • mathew

      I’m a 24 year old guy, and this type of wisdom is dawning on me now. I say we go for it 🙂
      Best o’ luck Mr Hunt

  2. Jodi

    one of my best friends died at 48. She said she regretted being greedy and always wanting money. I miss her laughter and fun. To get old is a great thing. Face your fears and they go away. Be you and no one else. Be happy and grateful every day. Do not care what anyone else thinks of you or your life style. Keep friends and family as long as you can. Enjoy good food and drink. Be kind and giving. Read, laugh, and dance. Be positive, not negative. Most of all remember, we all reap in life what we sew. I am 61, and great things happened for me. It can for you too. Pray everyday.

  3. Morgan Mabamu

    Thank its an eye opener

  4. JR

    My husband died of cancer at 63 and these were his regrets. It was also about putting off happiness until the timing was right; not doing fun things because of the day-to-day things that had to be done (housework, yardwork, work period). Think about it, children and teenagers never put off fun. They don’t think about having to get up in the morning and the day-to-day things that need to be done, they just go out and have fun. We called them naïve or irresponsible, but are they, or are they smart. We all need to have fun with our friends and family, regardless of the day-to-day chores and headaches. Make having fun a priory and you will be amazed at the energy you find to handle the day-to-day things.

  5. Rick

    I quit my job when I was 47 and moved to a small apartment in southern Mexico and never looked back. I haven’t worked a day since then. My friends thought I was crazy but I did it my way. I’m now 66 and still enjoying life. Think I’ll have another beer.

    • Thilak

      Rick, Happy to hear your story. Please tell us how did you live for 10 years without a job?

  6. Stan Davis

    I have seen this list before and am always bothered by rhe comments about working too much. I am 65 and continue to work full-time in my home with my wife who is retired.
    I am not wealthy and wonder sometimes if I would stop working if every article and TV adwould stop screaming “Are you going to outlive your savings??”. I probably will stop sooner rather than later but I enjoy (1) mentoring a distant young staff (2) having a client base who appreciate me (3) being able to have my four-year old granddaughter be my “assistant” occasionally and (4) listening to my dog softly snore next to me during the day.
    I realize that I am one of the lucky ones.

    • Susan

      Stan,
      I have a feeling that they are not talking about work in general. We need work and purpose in our lives. It sounds like you have your priorities straight. I think the regrets come to those who put work ahead of family and friends. Those who work 80 hour weeks and never have time to spend with their children come to mind. Of course we have to work to provide for our families, but some people go beyond what is needed and are driven by greed or power.

  7. Judi

    Working can bring its own joy , fellowship, & purpose to life , Stan.. These 5 regrets are wonderful reminders of what’s important to be savored. When we run on auto pilot, we lose life’s satisfying moments… Do good , have friends , & be happy !!! That’s life’s best recipe !!

  8. Brandon

    I have regret, lots of regrets and it pops up constantly when I open up Facebook or see and/or hear about old friends. Two days into my 23 birthday I feel off a ledge at the lodge we were having our 5 year class reunion. I instantly became a paraplegic unable to feel or move my body below my chest. I look back and remember all the chances I had before my fall and it makes me sad! It took maturity to finally realize that all the things I turned down at a young age were a wonderful opportunity I missed out on! And now I’m not able to add on to my life even 10% of what I could do out of a wheelchair. I was to young then to make good decisions and live life to the fullest. And now I’m not able to build a life for myself that doesn’t have regret in it every day. I think being able to say “no regrets” at the end of life would be a glorious thing! I hope that anyone that reads this will take this chance today to start loving and accepting all your opportunities that come your way. Jumping into the city pool at night and sleeping on the porch with your best friend or loved one watching the sun come up and taking off hiking the mountains and state parks! Stop looking at the pictures of all the beautiful places this world has to offer and see it with your own eyes, smell the dust and dirt of other places so that the next time you come across a picture of it again you can remember the smell and taste the air from those places! If I could I would…that was my plan..have fun

    • Brandon, I, too, have become physically challenged and cannot sit up, stand or walk for more than ten minutes at a time. At first I was angry and my thoughts continually drifted to what I could no longer do. Over time, I realized that anger, hopelessness and sorrow were as bad as the results of the accident. I now work on being grateful for what I do have and what I can do in life..I can read books, study a new language and see friends. It is not the life I expected but I am determined to enjoy what I can, and I have hope, as new breakthroughs in stem cells, 3D printing and DNA may give us healing before our lives end. I wish you every blessing the universe can provide.

  9. Don Bell

    Thanks for the insights. Left the corporate world at age 54 after feeling burnt out and in poor health.
    I have spent the last 15 years working on improving my health and more time with family. Couldn’t make up for all the time lost with my children working long hours but the time spent with grandkids is priceless.
    Am now in the best of health and happier than ever and have never looked back. Very lucky to be able to explore my interest and hobbies while I still can enjoy them.

  10. paula

    My life motto is Carpe Diem. Seize the day.
    I don’t always follow it, but I’m making gradual progress.

  11. Miles davis

    more sex, more laughs, more spontaneous, more quiet and do random acts of kindness everyday if you can.

    The greatest happiness is giving to others.

    A nice espresso adds a great touch.

  12. Louise Zwileneff

    I try to live so that at the end I won’t be able to say, “I wish I would have… “

  13. #5 is huge. Most people don’t realize that being happy is a choice. You get to choose how you respond to situations, and you get to choose to be happy, bitter, sad, etc.

    I have found the key to being happy is to be thankful. Be thankful for everything, even the bad stuff in life, and your overall demeanor will be happier.

  14. Larry Levinson

    I’m seventy six and facing cancer in my lung, kidneys, and hip bone. I am guilty of all of these regrets plus a couple. In nineteen ninety five, I was diagnosed with an inoperable heart failure. Six years later, I received a donated heart. I had plenty of time to reflect on my life. My motto now is “Dwell on the bad; live shorter miserable life. Dwell on the good; live long and prosper.”

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