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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”.

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.

Parts of this article have been sourced from The Guardian.

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.

Starts at 60 Writers

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  1. I don’t believe in regrets, we make life choices that we feel are right at the time of choosing,if later these turn out to be wrong then so be it

  2. I don’t regret what I have done, but when I stop and think about me as a person, yes, there is certainly things I wish I had done differently. I believe we learn to the day we die so I’ve made a pact with myself to change what I call my ‘failings’ so hopefully when my time comes I’ll leave this world with a smile on my face.

  3. Yes I have a few regrets, surrounding the men in my life,but each one bought something to be happy about ,so they evens things out,but as my time is coming ,I am going to make myself happy ,I have never flown or gone oversea on a holiday.(I had promises but they didn’t eventuate ) So at 75. here I come ,Whoope !!

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  4. No regrets really. There are things I could have done differently but we make choices & learn to live by them. But I have a loving God who has been my constant companion & certainly led in my life.

  5. The only regret hubby and i had when we came to nz in 1966 was we left our families and friends behind,Sadly hubby passed away 2 years ago and since then i have visited our daughter in another town three times and been over to Perth WA to see our youngest son and his son. Hubby wasnt keen on travelling far but that was okwe had great times going to the beach when the children were young.No regrets from me of my wonderful life

  6. A good article. I don’t think I have any particular regrets … but then again I’m not expecting to die any time soon.
    Not meaning to be picky but I am amused by the line “it’s a wakeup call and gives them permission to change tact”.
    I always thought the expression was “to change tack”. I think it derives from the nautical word describing a ship’s direction… as in “the boat was on a starboard tack”.

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    • Lol. Thanks Andy. I missed this one. There are oh so many such, even in the most professional of writing. Shouldn’t dissuade people from expressing themselves, but also love explained corrections such as yours.

    • I hope you don’t mind my impertinence in pointing it out Lyn, sometimes I just can’t help myself.
      I enjoyed the article … thank you.
      I love language and writing … and would hate to end up regretting not standing up for it … 🙂

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