I recently came across this list of Top 5 Regrets People Make on Their Deathbeds, written by Bronnie Ware, who works with the dying. I was really moved when I read this piece. Reading Bronnie's list gave me a sense of perspective that is sometimes hard to get in the midst of day-to-day life. After reading these regrets, I felt like I was given a prescription for life.
Sometimes the very best way to celebrate our lives today is to imagine ourselves on our very last day of life. Who do you want to be? What do you long to do? How do you want to love? Just picture yourself on the very last day of your life, and images may come to you.
Can you do just one thing today that is a step toward the life you know is one of no regret? For me, the day is jam-packed with to-do's. But I'm going to take some time and walk to the comic book store with my ten-year-old son, Kayne. I'm going to be 100% present with his funny stories, the sun on my face, and the friendly store owner who always has a special comic set aside for Kayne. Maybe we'll sit in the sun, reading our new comics. Because I know on my own deathbed, these tiny moments with people I love are what will bring me joy, peace, and a sense of connectness.
These moments are the wildflowers of my life.
I'd love to hear your own ideas of what you are going to do to create just one moment today that matches the life you know you want. If you need some simple ideas, visit our "Extraordinary Life Centers" on the website, where you'll find some suggestions. (Simply click on any point of the star: health, relationships, livelihood, creativity, or spirituality and you'll be taken to a page with some simple steps to make that part of your life feel extraordinary.)
It's never too late to create the life we want. And it always starts with just one moment.
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 have 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.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work 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.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
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.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
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.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
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 sillyness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
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