It’s very easy to guess at what we will regret when we die. However, this is a purely hypothetical question for most of us and we can only speculate on the answer. Only the dying can really ever know.
A few years ago, a pallative care worker, Bronnie Ware, was working closely with patients who had returned home to die. She would typically spend the last 3-12 weeks of their life with them.
When asking patients what they most regretted in their life or what they would do differently, the five most common answers were as follows.
1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Unsurprisingly, the most voiced regret of all was that people felt that their lives were dictated by other people. Most commonly, it’s families and social pressures that take control of a person’s life and tell them that they must live it in a certain way. They must go to university, take this job, build a career, and marry this person. Because of this, dreams remain unfulfilled. Many people only realise this when their health has deteriorated too much for them to do anything about it. Think about what you would do if you could do anything and try to start doing it.
2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
There is no harm in working hard if you are working towards something that you love. However, many people work only for money, thinking that they will eventually have time to do the things that they love. Unfortunately this is a never ending cycle and because of it, they miss out on spending time with the people they care about and doing the things that they love. Think about how much money you really need and if your job is really important enough that is causes you to miss out on everything else.
3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
It’s not easy to say exactly what we feel, particularly when we fear the repercussions that we may face by expressing ourselves. This goes for both positive and negative feelings. We don’t tell our boss that he’s doing things wrong in case he fires us and we don’t tell the neighbour that he’s an idiot in case it becomes awkward. Equally we don’t tell friends that we love them because they might laugh and we don’t tell lovers how much we care in case they don’t feel the same. By holding ourselves back, we build up resentment. By expressing ourselves either positively or negatively, it makes us honest and through this, more of a real person. If we get a positive response, great. If we get a negative response, we can lose this person of negativity from our lives. Try not worrying about how people will respond and tell them how you really feel. Courage is not a lack of fear, but a realisation that something else is more impotant than the fear itself.
4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
In the modern world, it is not difficult to stay in touch with people thanks to social media and globalisation. The hard part is taking the time to get in contact. Next time you are about to write, ‘Sorry I haven’t been in contact, I’ve been so busy,’ stop and think again. How long does it really take to send a message to someone special with nothing more than a handful of words? It’s not the time that is lacking, but the will. If you want to get into contact with someone, get in contact with them. Even after a falling out in which they told you never to contact them again, if you are truly friends, you will overcome this. All you have to do is make the effort.
5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
Happiness is a choice. By fighting the world and trying to be someone that you are not, you can never truly be happy. I have found that it is the little things in life that make me happy. This is doing whatever I feel like doing, spending time with good people, and being my open, honest self. Give it a try and see how it works out for you.
In The End
As people lie on their deathbed, what seems apparent is that they no longer care what others think. They no longer care about how they should live their life or of doing things that they don’t have a passion for. Instead, they let go of their fears about how others see them and they think about following their dreams, telling people that they care, and being themselves. Before this time, pride may stop us doing all those things. We can be too proud to follow our simple hearts.
All of these things however, come down to choice. We can make that choice now to get in touch with the people that we care about and to do the things that we love. We can choose to make ourselves happier.
Please take some time to read The Avant-Garde Life which is my own production, completely free, and addresses some of the issues above. It is intended to help others start doing whatever it is in life that they want to do. It isn’t an easy journey, but it is a worthwhile one. You may also want to take the time to read Bronnie’s original article by clicking here. She has now written a book about the topic.
I am trying to realign my life so that I will not have any of the above five regrets. To enable me to do this (and in fact part of it), I must do something that I dislike for two more months. At the end of June 2013, I will change everything. If I don’t, you have permission to hold me up, nail me to a cross, call me a liar, and burn me. Or something along those lines. Please, I challenge you to do such a thing as I challenge you to change your own life and avoid these regrets.
Are you living the life that you want to live? Will you regret anything?