This week a friend forwarded me an article from the Guardian sharing the top five regrets of the dying. Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse from Australia, spent years working with people during their final weeks of life and documented her experiences and their final musings in her blog Inspiration and Chai and a follow-up book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
According to Bronnie, the biggest regrets people have when they look back on their lives are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
(You can read more detail of these 5 regrets and Bronnie’s take on them here on her blog)
When I read these regrets I see three themes emerging – three key messages that we can choose to live by to avoid death-bed what ifs like the above:
1. Be courageous.
We get one life (maybe more, but nobody can be certain). Let’s make the most of it.
If you are reading this blog chances are you want to live a life less ordinary and to make a positive difference with your life. By definition living an extraordinary life (even in a small way) means stepping out from the norm, being bold, and chasing your dreams. That can be scary.
Doubts creep in.
Sometimes we can feel so duty bound – we think we can’t quit our jobs to chase out hearts desire – that would be risky; how would we pay the mortgage? It’s not practical to be an artist or an aid worker – there’s no money to be made. We need to think about the future… Yet what if in that future we look back on this present and regret the choices we made?
Remember, courage is not the absence of fear but the belief that somethings are more important than fear. Choose what is important for your life and courageously pursue it.
2. Choose wisely.
You are in control of your life. Truly.
Sure, some things that happen in your life are outside of your control. But you can always control how you respond to things, what to think about, and how you feel.
You are in control. You get to choose.
So choose wisely – think about how your prioritise your time, think about how your spend your life, think about how you feel day-to-day. Are you making the right choices? If not, maybe you should choose differently.
3. Value others.
Love and be loved. As human beings we exists in, of, and for relationships. A sense of belonging is considered a fundamental human need – without meaningful connections to other people we struggle, both psychologically and physically.
When you choose how to spend your time and energy in this precious life, remember that living with and for others will serve your happiness more than almost any other goal. The more you give, the more you get.
Have you got any more advice on how to live a life without regrets? Please share your ideas below.