Several years ago Bronnie Ware wrote a blog post entitle The Top 5 Regrets of The Dying. The post was about her time as a palliative care nurse, working with dying people in their homes. Bronnie discovered that those who had regrets in their final days seemed to regret one or more of the following:
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 didn’t work 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.
No one wants to get to the end of their life with these kind of regrets.
What can we do to avoid these regrets before it’s too late to do anything about it? Here are five tips:
1. Be true to you. Don’t let what other people want you to do derail you from what you want to do. This isn’t a license to be a jerk and to treat people terrible. Rather, it’s a reminder that you are unique. There has never been and there will never be anyone else exactly like you. Don’t deprive the world of the one and only you that we have.
2. Take time to enjoy life. My experiences with the dying aren’t as intense as Bronnie’s, but as a pastor for over a decade I’ve cared for many people during the last days and hours of their life. Like Bronnie, I have never once heard anyone on their deathbed say they wished they had worked more. If there is any regret in this area it is that they wish they had worked less. Don’t work so hard at making a living that you forget to make a life.
3. Express your thoughts and feelings with love and respect. Normal people don’t like conflict, but it is an inevitable part of life. With love and respect, have the tough conversation. Don’t just sweep it under the rug. Regardless of how they respond you can have the peace of mind of knowing you did your best to make peace.
4. Stay in touch with your friends. Is there someone who comes to mind that you wish you had stayed in touch with? It’s not too late. With websites like Facebook and Twitter its never been easier to reach out and stay in touch with the people you care about. Drop them a note. Let them know you were thinking about them, you enjoyed the times you spent together, you miss them, and you hope to stay in touch. It may feel weird at first. You might be worried about what the other person might think about this. Do it anyway.
5. Remember that happiness is a choice. Laugh. Smile. Learn to forgive. Let go of the grudges that you are holding on to. Make a chose each day to be happy. Even when things don’t go your way, know that no one can take your happiness away from you unless you let them.
You can make the rest of your life the best of your life. No matter what you’ve done it’s not too late to live the kind of life you won’t regret.