Do you ever think about when you are on your deathbed, what you would regret the most? Would it be that you didn’t make enough money, or didn’t have enough sex?
An Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware, whose job was to tend to patients during the last weeks of their lives, recorded their dying regrets. She then put together 5 most common regrets of these patients into a blog post, which went so viral that she eventually came out with a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
And no, it had nothing to do with money or pleasure. Not even close. During their moments of clarity, these dying people had given us insight into the kind of wisdom most of us take too long to realize. We will list down these 5 regrets and what we can actually learn from them.
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5 Things People Regret The Most On Their Deathbed
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
The regret of not being able to live one’s life true to themselves surprisingly (or should I say unsurprisingly) came up at number one. This goes to show that many of us in life don’t get to live the way we want.
It’s hard to live through life unscrutinized by others. There are societal expectations, and there are expectations of those near to us. It’s a natural human desire to want to please the people around us. But oftentimes, these expectations keep us away from our true desires.
So many dreams go unfulfilled due to this fear of going against social norms and expectations. You don’t really feel that regret of not being true to yourself until you are bedridden ready to move on to your next journey. Your time here on earth is limited. Don’t waste it chasing approval and ignoring what you really want.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Grind culture is currently at its peak. But when one is dying, money is certainly not what is on their mind. You don’t really hear someone say they wish they had worked harder during their life when they are in their final moments.
But actually, what people regret most of the time is that they didn’t get to spend more time with their loved ones or that they have wasted their youth. When you work too much, you will find yourself saying no to chances of socializing. All the fun you could have had, all the friends you could have made, you don’t feel the significance of those things until it’s too late.
But worse yet, working too hard can risk compromising your health. You neglect taking care of yourself in favor of your job and then one day it just snaps. Your back is in pain all the time. Your body suffers from your bad eating habits. the stress you have taken in all those years finally weighs down on you.
There is making money to live the life that you want, and there is working yourself into missing out on life altogether. The keyword here is Balance.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
According to the author, Bronnie Ware: “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.”
In truth, we have been taught to avoid conflict since very young. So a lot of times, you have to bottle in our feelings. But the thing is that, all of those negative feelings usually don’t go anywhere, or fade away even a little bit. Sometimes they stay there and leave regret.
“I wish I had stood up for myself.”
“I wish I had resolved that misunderstanding.”
Or maybe it’s a different type of unexpressed feeling. Maybe you were truly in love with someone and never had the courage to tell them how you feel. You ended up spending your later years thinking about the “what if”, but it was too late.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Ware said that: “There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
Sometimes we are too caught up in our own lives or in our work that we don’t spend enough time with our friends. To be able to live a full and happy life, one needs company. If frequent getting together is impossible for your lifestyle, make friends gathering a once a month, or even once a year thing.
The bottom line is that, don’t let the people that are truly important to you fade away into a mere memory you would remember on your deathbed. By that time it would be already too late to reignite.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice.” Ware said.
There are so many moments in our lives that we ignore our own happiness in favor of safety. We stuck with our routines, our old habits day in and day out. We stay in our comfort zones fearing any changes. And so we can break out of the bad places, bad people, bad relationships that we are familiar with. Some of us really actively choose to be mistreated and misunderstood.
Also, due to traumas carried from childhood, some of us grew up having a negative view of our own identity. Whenever we try to change for the better, we meet with discomfort, anxiety and even guilt.
If you think you are the one holding yourself back, it’s time to reevaluate your choices and let go of the things that do not make you happy, even if it’s your own attitude on life.
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