3 simple ways to live without regrets

Happiness is a choice

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:

  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 didn’t work 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.

(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.


About Cassandra

Hi, I'm Cassandra. I work in fundraising, love travelling, and am fascinated by how we can inspire one another to greatness and spread human kindness. Connect with me on twitter @cassandra_nz


  1. This is a lovely post! I currently work in a nursing home, most of the patients are dying or in the final stages of their lives; and they sometimes voice to me similar ideas about regret. I would like to add this tidbit to the idea of living without regret: “The opposite of Life is not Death. The opposite of Life is Indifference.” So often we just let life pass over and around us in a passive way. It is the days we have “wasted” or “lost” that we regret, so instead we should do the things that fill us with enthusiasm and passion!

    • Thanks Ingrid, and this is an important addition to the conversation – you’re right about living being more than simply being alive – to live a life without regrets we must have the courage and conviction to choose what we love and pursue it with energy and passion.
      All my love x

  2. Thanks for posting this, Cassandra! I have seen this before and it never hurts to have the reminders of a truly full life. I’ll be reposting this on my blog!

  3. Hi Cassandra I came over from Louise’s blog: http://ayearofmakingadifference.com/
    I loved your guest post over there and wanted to check out your blog
    Some great advice you have shared with us here for so many people it is just to hard to follow such simple advice,

    • Hi Jo-Anne, Thanks for stopping by… and for taking the time to comment! You actually just did something to make a difference – you encouraged someone (me). Thank you. It really is easier than we think to make a difference in the world. Thanks for bringing just a little more sunshine to my morning. :-)

      • We all need to therefore:1. Have the cgaoure to live a life true to ourselves, not the life others expected of us.2. Stop working so hard.3. Have the cgaoure to express our feelings.4. Stay in touch with our friends.5. Let ourselves be happier.Starting ..NOW. :)

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