For many years, Bronnie Ware worked as nurse in palliative care. Her patients were those who had gone home to die. She would be with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
Understandably, people grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality; never underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Each of her patients experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed. When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the top five:
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. 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 had not honored even half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
Work/life can be a rat race, climbing the corporate ladder, achieving professional goals, or simply just proving your worth so you’re not a victim of downsizing/layoffs. But shouldn’t we work to live and not live to work? 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 of Bronnie’s patients 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 not truly realizing the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks, 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 with a busy life 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, 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.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Happiness is a choice. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind.
Life is a choice. Choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose experience and happiness, while you still are able to make that choice.
Are you guilty of any of these?
Via Inspiration and Chai