Bonnie Ware, who was a palliative care nurse, worked with many people during the last days of their lives. She talked with them about their regrets, which she writes about in her book, Regrets of the Dying. Below is an outline of the top five regrets and ways we might shed some of those regrets before the end of our lives.
1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” By honoring our dreams, we can live more fully (particularly while we still have health). For me, this means spending more time creating art–something I wasn’t able to do as a corporate lawyer in private law firm practice. What is it for you?
2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” So often, time with family and loved ones is sacrificed for work. My experience in volunteering with hospice patients also revealed this regret. Limiting financial resources and lifestyle are difficult choices but worthy of consideration now rather than regret at the end of life.
3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” Having honest relationships and expressing your feelings is a key to leaving this life without regret. Think about what you are waiting to say to the people important to you and though it may be difficult to do, try to do it now, rather than waiting for regret later. Leaving this life with ease is a goal.
4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” It is common to lose touch with friends when we are busy with jobs and families and physical distance. Although I try not to waste too much time on social media, I have loved the way it lets me renew old friendships. And, trying to go deeper with those connections (rather than just “liking” a photo) by engaging old friends through writing or conversation is a way to take advantage of technology to reconnect. Bonnie Ware says “It 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.” Like my mother always told me, Bonnie Ware talks about how “happiness is a choice.” Whether its while you’re walking your dog, during your exercise, or when your eyes first open in the morning, cultivating a daily practice of thinking about how you can make life happier will make leaving this life without regrets an easier process.