Top Five Greatest Regrets

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in hospice care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

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 realise 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 honoured even a 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 realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked 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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

This article rings so heartbreaking and true to me after living the past two years ostracized by a large portion of the Christian community. My psychologist tells me ostracization is very similar to death.

What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die—or before you make a mistake that brings ostracization?

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Top Five Greatest Regrets

14 Responses

  1. profound!

    I regret working so hard for others that I should not have that I forgot to work for some of my dreams. It’s why I had to compose and record music this year. It’s not too late to create! But, wow the missed opportunities.
    Rich Kirkpatrick´s last blog post ..FREE music: All proceeds to Doma Intl’s Clinic in rural Ethiopa!

    Rich Kirkpatrick December 3, 2012 at 14:28 #
  2. thanks, Rich, for your candidness.

    Randy December 3, 2012 at 14:35 #
  3. I regret all the times I tried to play their game
    Vince´s last blog post ..The Rules

    Vince December 3, 2012 at 19:27 #
    • yep.

      randy December 4, 2012 at 11:00 #
  4. I regret worrying and not believing Abba more wholeheartedly for His promises, vision and goodness. When I worry, I’m leaning on my own strength and ability, and not allowing God to show off with all that He desires to do through me. I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy worrying instead of putting my trust in the Lover of my soul.

    Thanks for asking the question Randy and posting this blog by Bronnie Ware.

    Susan Fontaine Godwin December 3, 2012 at 22:30 #
    • Thanks, Susan, for joining the conversation

      randy December 4, 2012 at 11:01 #
  5. It is amazing that when people make poor decisions, others make an equally poor decision by writing off the other poor decision-maker. One does not have to condemn even though they do not condone. I try to “hurt” with all parties involved; much easier to take sides, but loving those who hurt and those who are hurting, many times, results in more clearly seeing all of us as hurting people.

    L C December 4, 2012 at 09:43 #
  6. Powerful words, L.C. especially, “One does not have to condemn even though they do not condone.” They are soothing to my soul.

    randy December 4, 2012 at 11:02 #
  7. I regret all the times I didn’t think I had anything worth contributing.
    Amanda´s last blog post ..My Weight is No Excuse

    Amanda December 4, 2012 at 11:07 #
    • Yes, so true for me as well.

      randy December 4, 2012 at 11:48 #
  8. Odd. I don’t think I have any regrets at this point in time. I certainly have unachieved goals, and I am working toward achieving them. But regrets don’t really come into play as I truly try and live every day to the fullest — as it might be my last.

    Thanks for the post. It’s a good one.
    Doreen Pendgracs´s last blog post ..Tips to Make You a Better Blogger

    Doreen Pendgracs December 4, 2012 at 18:39 #
    • Thanks, Doreen, for joining the conversation. An amazing comment.
      Randy´s last blog post ..My Top Ten Books of 2012

      Randy December 10, 2012 at 11:26 #
  9. I regret the time and emotional bandwidth I took from the Lord, my soul and family and gave to a human invention we call “church.” We approach “church” like the genetic code. We can totally map and reengineer it but we will never hold the breath of life that it needs to actually become a soul. It only comes through Relationship. That is where I find life.

    Jeff December 4, 2012 at 22:05 #
    • Oh.my.goodness, Jeff. I so relate to your words. Powerful. Sad. And true.
      Randy´s last blog post ..My Top Ten Books of 2012

      Randy December 10, 2012 at 11:27 #