Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

By Proposito Team

Good Planning,We are firm believers that people should die with memories rather than regrets, but all too often we speak to people who have regrets about the length of time it took to realise that life is short, that their health is precious and that time is their most valuable resource.

This is backed up by interviews conducted by an Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware. She is a palliative care nurse and spoke to many people who were faced by their own mortality.

Ware has written a book on the subject and this highlights the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

The top five regrets of the dying are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live the life I wanted, 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’d stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish I’d let myself be happier

Where in this list does it say: ‘I wish I’d earned a little more’, ‘I wish I’d spent more time working’, ‘I wish I’d waited longer before enjoying the fruits of all the years of hard work I put into my business’?

None of these feature and there is a reason why.

I wish I’d had the courage to live the life I wanted, not the life others expected of me.

This is a powerful statement and one that resonates in today’s more materialistic world. Society tells us that success is measured by material goods; by the cars we drive and the clothes we wear. If you are rich, famous and can influence people you are considered successful.

I would suggest that finding out what makes us truly happy and doing more of it, is what would define us as successful.

What if you lived the life you really wanted to? What would it look like?

What if we spent our time and money on the things we love doing rather than on ‘stuff’?

What if that simply meant seeing the world with your husband, wife or partner before it’s too late or spending time with your children and grandchildren away from the business?

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

This is a tricky one as working hard can bring you the rewards that allow you to live a satisfying life. The key here is balance. Working too hard can take you away from doing the things you love doing and leaving it too late to realise this is a missed opportunity.

Life is not a rehearsal and we can’t come back next time and retire sooner, or take that trip whilst we are still fit and active enough to really enjoy it or to take Friday afternoons off to spend time with the family.

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

I don’t know about you but I am not always the best at expressing my feelings. I tell my children and my partner that I love them everyday but telling people that I admire them, am inspired by them or that I am frustrated by them is not something I do well.

I guess I am worried about their response and I may regret this stance. The reality is that they may appreciate the praise or be unaware that certain behaviours are annoying to others. They may thank you me pointing this out, and if nothing else I’ve got it off your chest!

I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.

How many of us can count the number of quality relationships we have with people outside our immediate families on one hand? It’s so easy in today’s world to fall out of touch with people despite the myriad social media tools. Facebook allows us to see what people are up to, but  as a result we often feel we don’t need to see them in order to catch up. It’s easier to just read their news feeds.

Added to this, many people are working so hard that their free time takes place during antisocial hours when it’s not practical to catch up with friends.

I wish I’d let myself be happier.

This point is really interesting to me. It’s not ‘I wish I was happier’, it’s ‘I wish I’d let myself be happier’, and this issue cuts to the core of this post.

We often allow society and its expectations to directly impact on our own happiness. Perhaps if we concentrated on what makes us happy and then spend our time and money on that, rather than on what we think society expects we would all live happier lives.

This statement also suggests that we need permission to be happy, but permission from whom, your colleagues? your friends? your family?

I would argue that the statement suggests that the only person that can give us permission is ourselves. If that is the case why not do that! Be a bit selfish and focus on what makes us happy.

If we are able to identify what it is that makes us happy – be that more time with the family or more time pursuing hobbies and passions – and we are able to live that life, surely that is happiness.

How many of you reading this now have sat down and worked out what makes you truly happy? Talking to a financial planner can help, they will spend time with you exploring what is really important to you, what your motivations are and values are.

They will then create a plan around this that will give your finances a true purpose, helping to ensure you do not leave this mortal coil with any regrets.