About six months ago, I read a short article by Bronnie Ware. She summed up her book, “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.” Here’s how it started. After leaving an unfulfilling job, Bronnie worked in hospice care. She informally compiled a list of the five most common regrets expressed by the people she cared for. She wrote an article, a blog and then a book.
I totally resonate with Bronnie’s discovery. As a pastor for the last 35 years, many have confided in me their regrets near the end of their earthly journeys. In fact, I intentionally ask, “How would you live your life differently if you could do it all over again?” The responses I’ve heard have helped shape and sharpen my own journey.
The list Ms. Ware collected gained huge popularity, and I’m sharing it with you because it’s something all of us should keep in mind. Even though it can be hard to think about, this stuff is really important for your life right here and now!
1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” – So many dreams have gone unfulfilled because too many people live out everyone else’s expectations and suppress or ignore their own. Do you have a clear mission statement? Are you intentionally living out your mission and purpose? If not, what needs to change?
2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” – Ware stated, “This came from every male patient I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.” It can happen to women too. But reflect for a moment. If you keep the current pace you are on right now, will you have any regrets about how you used your time?
3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” – So many people live in mediocre relationships because they never get beyond the 90% level of conversations that are “safe.” Most us have trouble expressing the final 10% which expresses how we really feel. A lot of health issues are a result of bitterness and resentment that folks have carried for years and years. Talk to a friend, your clergy, or a counselor and share the final 10% and also learn how to healthily and regularly go beyond the 90% in your significant relationships.
4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” – We can easily become so busy doing life that we let our life-giving relationships slip away over the years. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. Staying connected to long-time friends or developing new friends is important all along life’s timeline. Life happens. Time keeps going. How are you being intentional about nurturing your relational connections?
5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” – Many of us fail to realize until near the end that happiness is actually a choice. If not intentional, we will stay stuck in old patterns and habits that are comforting and familiar. And our fear of change can easily keep us from fully enjoying life. We just go along with the flow and never find the happiness, joy and fulfillment that God wants all of us to have. Changes in our emotional, physical, relational or spiritual patterns are a few key places to examine first if you aren’t experiencing regret-free living that is filled with an abundant measure of joy.
Think about it. This is really powerful advice. Take it from the people that have been there, and don’t make the same mistake! And just maybe I can inspire you today to adjust some areas before it turns into a regret. Have a regret-free day!
QUESTION: From your experience, which one of these five should be at the top of the list? What else would you add to the list? Please share it in the comment area below. Thanks!