Many of us have been faced with the question, If tomorrow was your last day to live, what would you do with it? Our minds go straight to our bucket lists, scrolling through the list of what we could do with one last day: skydive, go bungee jumping, climb a mountain, ride all the rides at Disneyland, tell off your boss, rob a bank, buy a diamond encrusted jacket, have sex…
But what if you really were faced with your own mortality? Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse who has counseled the dying in their final days, learned that when questioned about any regrets they had, her patients expressed common afflictions.
On her website, Inspiration and Chai, Ware compiled a list of the top five regrets of the dying– and none of them involve jumping out of airplanes.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
When people look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
Most commonly expressed by male patients, they deeply regretted spending so much of their time on work rather than with their family and friends. Ware suggests that by simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
As a result of suppressing their feelings to keep peace with others, many patients felt they had settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Ware advises that by speaking honestly, you either raise the relationship to a whole new and healthier level or release the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Ware witnessed many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying and it all comes down to love and relationships in the end.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Many of her patients did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. “When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind,” she says. “How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.”