In her inspirational book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing,” Australian author Bronnie Ware, a former palliative care nurse, shares the lessons she learned sitting at the bedsides of the terminally ill.
Her list was originally published as a blog post (that eventually went viral) in which she shared five regrets she says her patients expressed over and over:
1) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself.
2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3) I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5) I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The regrets are relatable and devastating and say much about how, when driven by fear and insecurity, we are left with regret.
As we look toward a new year and a new decade, many of us think about how to live a better life—one, perhaps, that won’t end with such regrets.
It often comes to pass that we regret what we don’t do instead of what we actually do. Most of the regrets Ware highlights seems to be regrets of omission.
On the other hand, there are certain things we will likely never regret. What would the next decade look like if we focused on them?
We know we should exercise. Sometimes we make big plans to exercise, and then we hit the snooze or use weather as an excuse. Later, what do we do? We regret that we didn’t fulfill our promise to ourselves.
We don’t ever regret exercising, though. Those days when you don’t feel like it at all, but you push yourself to do it anyway, are some of the best days. Afterward, you feel great that you moved your body and honored your commitment to yourself.
Living Within Your Means
From time to time, shiny objects tempt us to get into debt to get what we want, when we want it. Soon after, we experience what’s known as “buyer’s remorse,” or in other words, regret. Sometimes these shiny objects are large and have a lasting impact, deepening the impact of the regret.
However, when we live within our means and forego immediate gratification, we enjoy a peace of mind that colors all other aspects of our lives.
You know that thing you’ve always wanted to do? It’s risky. It may not work. You may fail. It may be embarrassing. It’s a risk.
If you fail, however, you probably won’t regret doing it. You’ll learn valuable lessons from the failure, and you’ll be proud of yourself for going for it. There’s always the possibility, too, that it doesn’t fail.
If you don’t do it, though, will you regret it? Risks, of course, need to be measured, but risking failure is probably one of those things you won’t regret.
Spending Time With Loved Ones
Relationships are a key element of life and what brings meaning and connection. The fourth regret on Ware’s list speaks to the significance of people in our lives.
Yet, we can get so busy, can’t we? We lose touch. We talk about how we “should” get together. We think of a less busy time that never comes. We just stay wrapped up in our workaday routines, riding the treadmill.
Making time for our friends and family, though, always enriches our lives. When we do, we don’t regret it. The memories of that precious time linger on in our minds for a long time after.
Letting Go of Attachments
There can be many things that hold us back from living up to our potential. Perhaps we’re angry, jealous, or scared. These things we can’t let go of, attachments, hinder us from living a fulfilled life.
Letting go of attachments to wanting things, to trying to control things, can be immensely freeing. Instead of wishing for a life in your mind, embrace the life that is.