On Bronnie Ware’s blog, Inspiration and Chai, the post titled “Regrets of the Dying “ would be one of the most popular. This is a reflective piece inspired by her time working in palliative care, where she nursed thousands of patients who were in the last few weeks of their lives. It was interesting and perhaps touching how the dying had looked at their own lives and revealed their regrets. I don’t know, given another chance, if life would have been any better for them.
From time to time, when someone asks me if I have had any regrets, it has prompted me to think long and hard. My answer is clearly given at the top of my blog. Life had always been a list of unfulfilled dreams. And it was hard to choose from among them , that’s all. But then, it was also good to have lived than not living and trying at all. After reading Bronnie’s list below, I found how similar we human beings are, under the camouflage of big and small ,rich and poor, and that I really have few things to work on if I want my answer to change before my time is up.
Here we have an opportunity to look at our own lives from a different point of view. This reminds us that only we can be responsible for our own happiness or unhappiness in the long run. Life is as simple as what we make of it. And also as complicated when we sit down at the end of the road and look back and realize how little we have done of what we had always wanted.
I don’t know how many of you would have come across this inspirational article. The link was sent to me by a friend of mine. Globally, this article has been translated into several languages and seems to have broken cultural barriers with incredible ease. It is the simplicity and honesty of the article that has made it resonate with people. Looking back, it makes me realize just how alike we all are and how, sadly, we can all be influenced and driven by the wrong priorities and by fear.
" When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common 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 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 had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
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 is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted 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 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 people 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 they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and 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 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 is 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.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed 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 "
If we sit back and look at life, most of us would regret the things we did than the things we didn’t do. Studies have proven that regrets of inaction persist much longer than regrets of action. There is little you can do for the missed opportunities of the past. Use the slightly unsettling feeling of regret to motivate yourself to do something about it. Tackle something important on your "to do before I die" list and if you don't have such a list then make one. No one lives a perfect life and no one accomplishes everything that they set out to do. Some people however are in constant motion so that instead of reflecting on missed opportunities of the past they are working towards new accomplishments in the present. Don't be afraid to take a chance. As you read above, people generally feel worse for not trying than for trying and failing.
Life is too short. Trust me it is. Sometimes, there is no tomorrow, or a “next time”. So don’t do something that would make you regret life.
"So...If you could live your life all over again, what's the one thing you would do differently?"
Life is a choice. It is your life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.