I recently finished reading this book by Bronnie Ware; she was a nurse caring for people at the end of their lives, and wrote this book listing the top five things most of her clients said they regretted. The book is about so much more than that, and definitely worth a read.
For me, reading about what people wish they’d done differently serves as a good cautionary tale, and has made me think about the way I’m living my life right now… Will I regret some of my choices when I reach the end of my life?
There are five key things people say they regret as they reach the end of their life:
1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
The thing is, there will always be challenges in life. Whether you live your life to someone else’s standards or to your own, you will come up against difficult situations from time to time. At least if you’re living a life that’s trie to yourself, you can also have the satisfaction and joy that comes with that. Feeling that you are being true to yourself can help you to weather your way through the harder times. If you’re living someone else’s version of life, there’s not much comfort to be found when you come to a challenge in life.
2: I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
I am really feeling this one at the moment! I feel like I spend all of my time working, and with a daughter at home all day every day lately, that really notices. It’s also made me wonder: what am I working for? There are parts of my work that I really enjoy and gain genuine satisfaction from… Others, not so much! At the end of each day, do you look back and feel those were hours well spent? Or do you reach for a glass of wine and count down the days til the weekend?
3: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
This is not about going on the rampage, telling people off for how they’ve wronged you; rather it’s about making sure that the people you love, know that you love them. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions or reactions to how you feel – that is their concern. Your only concern is being true to yourself. Are you being true to yourself? Do you express your feelings?
4: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Now is a great time to get in touch with people – but also, with a lack of the usual social gatherings, meetings, school runs and so on it is really easy to lose touch. We meet new people all the time, but what about the ones you’ve known your whole life? Do you make the effort to stay in touch with those people, to cultivate those friendships?
5: I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is about allowing yourself to be happy, to feel joy. Saying yes to the things you know will feel good. It’s really easy to become addicted to your own suffering (I should know, right!) and it can be hard to climb out of that. But it is worth doing. Often we don’t say yes to things because we’re worried about what other people might say or think of us – but in the longer term, what does that matter? I think having a child has helped me with this one; I can giggle in public and not worry about whether people think I’m bonkers because if it makes my daughter happy nothing else matters. I do still have a long way to go, however…
A cautionary tale for the rest of us
We’ve all seen memes on social media and read books telling us, Don’t worry about what people think of you or Just speak your mind – as if it’s that easy. For me though, seeing that people on their literal death bed genuinely do not mention money or status or anything else, seems to have hit it home a little more.
Many of the people Bronnie Ware mentions in her book have lived successful lives; they have plenty of money in the bank, nice houses – they can afford to have a private nurse with them in their final days, after all. To see the things they wish they had done differently seems much more profound and interesting to me. What about you?