The top 5 regrets of the dying

The top 5 regrets of the dying

Last month I blogged about three keys to setting better goals for the coming new year. But what do you do when there isn’t going to be a new year; no future to plan for or set goals for? When there is no more time or call for goals, what do those facing death regret?

Last week I read an article in The Guardian that addressed this issue. The article is based on a study and subsequent book by Bronnie Ware, a hospice nurse with years of end-of-life experience helping her patients navigate through their last few days on this planet.

I used to work for a guy who would always say that we should begin with the end in mind. So…if we want to come to the end of our lives without the added tremendous weight of regret it’s important to start living now with these words of regret echoing in our minds. So without further ado here are the top 5 regrets of the dying according to Ware’s study (in reverse order):

5. I wish I had let myself be happier. Did you know that being happy is a choice? That was the realization of those who found themselves close to death. I can choose whether or not to be happy and more times than not, I didn’t choose happiness. The power to choose should never be taken lightly. There are many things in this life we cannot choose (our family for instance) we should take the opportunity to choose rightly every chance we get.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. I know that Facebook gets a lot of critism and sure it can be a time waster. However, I don’t think there is a better tool for staying in touch. Because of Facebook I am in touch with many, many people who have been in my life at some point in my past. But because of Facebook I know of their joys and successes in life. I also know of their tragedies and disappointments. Sure, it’s not like living next door but it is staying in touch. But beyond Facebook, pick up the phone or grab a pen and write a letter! I can’t imagine the crushing lonliness of approaching death and realizing that there’s no one coming to be at your side.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Stoicism is over-rated. I think guys in particular struggle with segmenting their lives in such a way that there are firewalls between the various areas of their lives; work life, church life, family life, sports life, and yeah…even sin life. Tearing down these walls and allowing the circumstances of life to bleed through from one segment to the other is much more healthy.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I used to hear this expressed as “No one ever said on their deathbed that they wish they’d spent more time with their desk.” Again, guys, especially can get caught in this trap. Yeah, it’s important to work hard. The Bible talks about working hard in harvest time so you have food in the winter. But at the end of the day what does that extra hour or so do except to steal time you could be having with those who love you and need you. Take it from those who are staring death in the face, all those Saturdays and Sundays spent in the office aren’t worth all that much in the end.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Can you identify with this one? If so…stop living someone else’s idea of what your life should be. It’s time to pursue YOUR dreams and goals and stop living to fulfill someone else’s. Have the courage to stand up and say this is MY LIFE. God has a purpose unique to you and now is the time to pursue it.

Are there any surprises here for you? Chances are you’ve heard these things before. Heck, chances are the very ones near death had heard these things before. Purpose today not to come to the end of your life with these regrets. These are things you can change. You have power here. Listen to these folks! Don’t let their regrets be yours.

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One comment

  • I don’t seem to have too much trouble with numbers 2-5, but I find number 1 difficult. I’ve always been told that I have servants heart (been gifted with) and that to be thankful for it, which I am I suppose. I struggle with putting myself first and feel selfish when I do pursue my own dreams. I am learning though and working on it, with Gods help, one step at a time. Thank you Mike for posting this and for adding your own thoughts and wisdom. Love to you and your entire family.


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