Earlier this year, I read a 2013 article in the Huffington Post called “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” that summed up those five deathbed regrets from Bronnie Ware’s book of the same name. Ware, a palliative nurse who tended to the needs of the dying. Over the course of many years, her life was transformed by their stories. She first started an internet blog about the topic before she wrote her book. I want to list the top five things here as a way to open up a discussion about the importance of things in our life that we really hold dear but somehow seem to forget or get too busy to remember.
Right from the Huffington Post article, they are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. This came from every male patient she had nursed.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. This came from suppressing feelings to keep peace with others.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Getting so caught up in our own lives that we let those friendships slip away.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier. Very common regret. Most did not realize until too late that happiness is a choice.
Did Anything Hit Home With You?
I know they did with me! Over the past year, for reasons I will be explaining to you in future posts, I’ve had a LOT of time to think about every one of these. I’m sure we all do and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Don’t forget that when we’re doing great physically or financially we simply tend to block out anything but how we got there. Then, we try to just rinse and repeat the cycle hoping for more of the same. If none of these regrets were part of our “system”, they just get put on hold. For instance, if one is able to travel the world why would they risk upsetting their relationships by speaking from the heart. You know, just go along with whatever and it will take care of itself. What these patients proved is stuff doesn’t always take care of itself. It needs our attention to see it through.
Let’s be honest here: taking stock of our lives is HARD and can be a very painful thing to go through. Even if we’ve checked off four of the five above but don’t find out about a close friend dying until too late, it hits us hard! I know personally taking stock of where I am and where I’d like to be is something I’ve avoided numerous times for any number of reasons. I don’t think I’m alone here either. That’s one of the reasons I’ve all but given up on goal setting in favor of a more intention-based visualization technique known as Three Simple Steps. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in setting goals to get the stuff you need done every day and reevaluating them regularly. What I’m talking about is the Big Picture of who you want to be and what that involves for you. Baby steps here just drove me mad. Even so, I still find myself coming up with excuses for not doing the TSS intentions all the time. Like the author says, this stuff may be simple but it’s not easy!
I think all of this reluctance to review our lives is one of the key reasons we can be blindsided by this stuff. I mean, who thinks when they say “Yeah, I’ll call her back when I’ve got more time to talk” that it may be the last time they get to connect with them? Nobody I’m guessing. However slim that possibility seems it is still a possibility we need to entertain at least. The same goes for the rest of the list. We NEVER think that any time we fail to take action towards any of these that it will be our last chance. Plus, taking stock of our lives forces us to think of our own mortality which is the most unforgiving measure of our lives!
There IS Good News!
From the Huffington Post article:
“It’s important to remember that whatever stage we are at in life, there is no need for regret. The process of regret is one that provides nothing but suffering for ourselves as we begin to allow the past to dictate how we should feel now. Instead, we can use the past as a reference point to understand what adjustments we would like to make moving forward. The adjustments do not have to come out of pain, sorrow, regret or judgment, but simply a choice to do things in a different way. We are learning all the time, we can very quickly slow that learning process down by getting stuck in the idea of regret. When it comes to making changes, be at peace with the past and remember that each moment is a new choice.”
So, the good news is regret has no good purpose for us in the here and now. Every day is a new day whether we think so or not. We have a new set of choices available to us every moment we’re being mindful of them. I’d like to tell you this comes easy for me but I struggle with it as much if not more than any other human. Negative self-talk, thinking less of others and all those infectious social diseases have found there way to and through me a LOT during my life on this planet so far. I’ll be sharing more about my experience with this stuff more in the coming months and years if you’ll have me.
So sure, take a look at the list and vow to start today to make a course correction and list one thing you can do TODAY to change your course. Myself, I’ve already sent the article and list to a very close friend of mine who I love dearly who has gotten distant by both of our faults. The point I made to her is the same I wish for you: don’t worry about regret or blame or any of that. Just do something today to make sure the list isn’t your list when it all comes to an end. Ok?
Did this article touch you? If so, I’d love it if you would share it with your friends on Facebook, twitter or wherever you hang out! I’d also love to hear from you in a comment below about what you’re going to do TODAY to make a change in your life.