Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative 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.
Here are the most common five regrets for men, 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.
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 more I thought about these regrets of other people, the more I wondered about my own regrets, should I die tomorrow. I can somewhat identify with working so hard, because it takes me away from time with my husband, yet writing is so fulfilling to me that I don’t think I would regret that. My husband and my writing are two lovers that I have to balance my time with. Made to choose, I would never write another word, yet I would deeply regret that.
I’ve given number five a lot of consideration. Allowing myself to be happier is an interesting one. I do realize that people—including me—can choose to be happy, or not. Happiness is a choice, and for me it means appreciating what you have at the moment, without dwelling on what you don’t have. It is something I strive for constantly. Being one of the key principles of Buddhism, it is something I’ve been working on for decades.
I think if I were to die tomorrow, my #1 regret would be that I was not more generous with people in my life. There have been so many times when I could have reached out to family, friends, even strangers on the street and given them a helping hand, but I chose to deal with my own issues instead.
So, knowledge is power. Armed with knowing that would be my regret, hopefully I still have time to do something about it. Work less, be happy with what I have, and give more to others. Sounds like a good plan to minimize regrets.