The Five Regrets People Have

Old couple

Most people have regrets as they age. People wish they have done things differently as they look back at their life. Seniors often look at broken marriages and say, "If only…"

Many look at bad decisions and wish they could get an "instant replay" or second chance. I thought it might be productive to ask someone who has heard from hundreds of people, both young and old.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, Bronnie Ware heard the same five common themes over and over and over.

After you read them, ask yourself, "Is there anything at all in my life that I truly regret?" And secondly, "Is there anything that I can do now, in the next few days, weeks or months, to make my life full, complete and satisfying?"

After all, we don't always die according to our own plan.

Well, here they are, all five regrets:

  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 realize 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 not honour even half of their dreams and have to die knowing that it is due to choices they make, or not make.

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's too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

  1. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This comes from every male patient that I nursed. They miss their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also speak of this regret. But, as most are from an older generation, many of the female patients have not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regret 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 not to 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.

  1. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settle for a mediocre existence and never become who they are truly capable of becoming. As a result, many developed illnesses related to the bitterness and resentment they carried.

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.

  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
SJI Class

Often they will not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it is not always possible to track them down. Many have become so caught up in their own lives that they let golden friendships slip by over the years. There are many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserve. 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 all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

  1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many does not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They stay stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called "comfort" of familiarity overflows into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change has them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they are content. When deep within, they long to laugh properly and have silliness 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, and choose honestly. Choose happiness.

We cannot always choose every aspect of our circumstances, job, relationships, or family. What we can choose, every single waking moment of our lives, is our response to those things. And it is our response that determines the quality of life, not our circumstances.

Make the choices that will bring you joy. Life is short. Rock on!

Further reading

Bronnie Ware. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Hay House.