We all really do have our regrets, even if we live by the mantra “No regrets”. We’d all like to believe it’s as easy as looking back at our lives and thinking we have done everything, but there’s usually just those few things you really do wish you had done, even if it takes you a few moment to figure out exactly what it is. Australian author and songwriter Bronnie Ware started a blog in 2009 which exploded with popularity thanks to a Guardian article about it. A seemingly simple post about her experiences as a live-in carer for terminally ill patients turned into a phenomenon. Her blog ‘Regrets of the Dying’, spoke of the five recurring themes that haunted the people she cared for. Now over 8 million people have read her post and her subsequent book.
She believes her blog and the regrets she has shared “gives people permission to change direction. That’s what it triggers – it’s a wakeup call and gives them permission to change tact”.
So here are the top 5 regrets of the dying…
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it”.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence”.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result”.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying”.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again”.
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It’s clear that those habits and thoughts we have in our younger years can carry through our lives. We often get stuck in routines or stuck out of a routine and forget to take a leap of faith to make ourselves happy. It’s also a misconception that you’re too old to make your life better and to do the things you wished you had. Life is too short to be left wondering what if, and as they say, you never regret the things you did, only the things you didn’t do.
What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die? Why do you have this regret? Tell us below.