Bronnie Ware is an inspiring speaker and the author of the best-selling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying Patients– A Life transformed by the Dearly Departing, released worldwide, with translations in 27 languages.
Prior to choosing self-employment, Bronnie had worked as a nurse in a terminal palliative care unit. Her patients were those who were near their death bed. In Ware’s words, ‘People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality’. In 2013, a fascinating study was performed by her where she decided to poll her patients in their last days in hope to uncover any regrets so that others may learn.
“Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.” – Nurse Bronnie Ware.
Here are the top regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware
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 their choices they had made, or not made.
How to avoid it – Do not live your life to please others. Stand true to yourself. If somebody gives you feedback on your actions or decisions, just listen to them. There is no need to give regard to everybody’s opinion. You may land up making haters or enemies but that is fine as it indicates that you stood up for your dreams and aspirations. At the end it’ll be worth it.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard – Ware says that this came from every male patient she nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
How to avoid it – It has never been a matter of time; it’s always been a matter of your priorities. Make a choice on what you really want to spend your time on and then analyse the alignment between your desires and actions. Correct the misalignment, if any. Things will be sorted out!
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.
How to avoid it – Most of us fail to express our true feelings to our parents, sibling, spouse or friend. Sometimes we take them for granted, sometimes the ego engulfs our true feelings or other times just to avoid any kind of clash. It’s better to regret doing something than to regret doing nothing at all. Expressing will only make relationships stronger.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends – Often they would not truly realise the 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.
How to avoid it – I guess this regret must have been common in the older generations as the Internet and social sites have made it relatively easier to track and connect with old friends and making the new ones.
Though even now, in our busy lives we keep friendships down in the priority list and do not put due effort to meet up friends face to face. Make an effort to initiate social get-togethers.
There will be people who may not respond to your efforts as their priorities maybe different.
It’s okay. There will be friends who will reciprocate your efforts.
You will land up building golden friendships that will be authentic and fruitful.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier – This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise 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.
How to avoid it –
As John Galbraith mentioned in The Affluent Society : “Despite the increasing wealth of the society, people are not happier – in fact, they have become unhappier”.
We have become unhapier only due to our faulty perception of happiness. It’s a choice to be happy. You can be happy at this moment of your life, if you really want to. It’s your life, your choice.
Also Read : Because You Live Once