A recent book written by Bonnie Ware is titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. The author, an Australian, took a job tending to the care of the dying, and interviewed a number of these people during their last days. She asked them about their regrets–what they wished they had done. First, she blogged on the subject, and then she wrote the book.
Here are the top five regrets she identified:
1. I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Wow, this one is powerful. How many of us have lived our lives in a way that sought to please someone else–first our parents, then our spouse and children, and even our friends? I wonder if we would even think of this unless we were facing the end of life. Then, as we looked back, we would see what we had missed on this point.
I don’t think we know how to live life in a way that is true to ourselves. Or maybe we are afraid to do so, for it sounds so selfish. After all, aren’t we supposed to think of others first? I don’t think either one is the issue. I think we typically try to meet other people’s expectations of us because we are not confident in who we are. We let others define us.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
This one sounds more familiar because we’ve all heard the suggestion that no one on their death bed would say, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Unfortunately, it’s only when we get out of the rat race that we see our misplaced value in working so hard. My oldest son is very clear in his priorities–his job is important, but not more important than his family. He’s got it right and obviously this won’t be one of his regrets.
3. I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings, not just keep the peace.
What we feel is probably the part of us that is closest to who we are. For some of us, we may need to start at an even more basic point in that we might wish that we could really know what it is we are feeling. Many of us have spent years hiding our feelings. If that’s true for you, now is a good time to begin to explore the world of your emotions. But for some men, that might be a scary proposition.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with friends.
I have a feeling this will be my regret, unless I start doing something about it now. I’m not very good at staying in touch, even with my extended family. We often only appreciate our circle of friends in a crisis or near the end of our lives. Maybe I need to realize that my own days are numbered and that I need to connect more with friends and family.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier.
The interesting way this is stated centers around the word “let.” It implies that I think I had a choice, and I made the wrong choice. I worried about things I couldn’t do anything about. I focused too much on the negative–but all the time realizing that I have a choice. Neuroscientists tell us that we all have a proclivity towards the negative–even the most optimistic among us. But it is still a choice.
Question: Which of these regrets are something you need to look at in your life today?