If today was your last day, what would be your biggest regret?

Australian nurse, Bonnie Ware, worked with people who were dying and found that in particular men regret having worked so hard. She has written about how people in the last 3 to 12 weeks of their lives undergo huge personal changes as they face their mortality in a blog called Inspiration and Chai and in a book: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Much of what she writes has relevance for building resilience to cope with the daily grind as well as life’s big adversities.

Amazingly there were 5 common themes in how people who were dying answered the question of what regrets they had or what they would have done differently:

1. Regret: I wish I’d had the courage to live my life true to myself, rather than what others expected of me

Not following your dreams was the most common regret of all. The decisions people had made, or not made, often resulted in them giving up their dreams. Losing your health dramatically reduces your freedom to pursue your dreams. Most people at the ends of their lives say that over half their dreams remain unfulfilled.

What to do? Connect to what’s really important to you. Ask yourself: if I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I do? Dream big dreams, and take the risk to follow some of them.

2. Regret: I wish I didn’t work so hard

Every single male patient she nursed had this regret! They typically missed their children growing up and the companionship of their partner.

What to do? Simplify your lifestyle. Make conscious choices about your need for material possessions. Set aside specific “special time” for you to be really present with each of your loved ones. Also set aside time for you to be on your own by yourself.

3. Regret: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings

Many people don’t say what they are feeling in order to keep the peace or in order to not harm important relationships. This ends up harming the person who suppresses their feelings however, as they don’t grow and develop the way they could have. Despite their best intentions, they often become better and resentful, which may even have resulted in illness.

What to do? As difficult as it is, you need to speak up authentically for yourself. This takes courage as well as accepting that if your relationship ends because of your honesty, then you will probably be better off free from a toxic relationship.

4. Regret: I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends

Living a busy life often means that finding time for your meaningful friends is really difficult. Of course you have to spend time on the hum drum issues of daily living, as well as earning a living, but in the end, all that matters is love and friendships. And when your health is deteriorating, you often just haven’t got the energy or even time to rectify the situation.

What to do? Reach out today to those people who are important to you. Spend time with them. Eat meals with them. Experience their lives with them.

5. Regret: I wish I had let myself be happier

Many people are stuck in the comfort and familiarity of old patterns and habits. They are scared to change, pretending to themselves and others that they are happy. Yet deep within, they know they could be happier.

What to do? Happiness is a deliberate choice you make for yourself. You can change your thinking and perceptions, and experience genuine positive emotions. You can actively become happier. It’s a choice that you make for yourself every day.

So use these suggestions to really live the one short and fragile life you have to its fullest!

Start by asking yourself what small thing can I do now so that I don’t have regrets?

 

References:

Bonnie Ware’s blog: http://www.inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html
Bonnie Ware’s Book: http://www.amazon.com/Top-Five-Regrets-Dying-Transformed/dp/140194065X