5 Powerful Regrets that can Change your Life

regretRegret is such a useless emotion.

The fact is that you can’t change the past. What’s done is done.

But what you can do is learn from your mistakes and, for the sake of this post, the mistakes of others.

Recently I put up a link on my Facebook Page to a very interesting (and now popular) article that was titled Top Five Regrets of the Dying. The article was written by an Australian nurse name Bronnie Ware who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.

Bonnie often asked her patients in their last weeks if they had any regrets from their past and, if given the chance, would they go back and do things differently.

The results she recorded have now been passed around the world and she even wrote a book on the topic.

Here were the top 5 regrets that she recorded and my thoughts on each.

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

According to Bonnie, this was the most common regret of all.

“When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.”

We all have dreams. We all have hopes and ambitions that we want to fulfill as we’re growing up. But things happen. Life happens.  And we often set our dreams aside for things that sit a little higher on our priority list.

We often think that we have an eternity to do the things we really want to do. We always think we have tomorrow until one day you realize that your entire life has passed you by and you didn’t do the things that you wanted to do. Instead, you fulfilled the expectations of others.

My advice?

Take a piece of paper and write down what your goals and dreams are. Write down what it is that you want to do for yourself. Write down where you want to be within the next 5 years. Write down exactly what you need to do to get there and the things you’ll have to give up along the way. Post that piece of paper up somewhere so you can see it every single day to remind you of what’s important to you.

I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every single male patient (considering these are older generations).

“All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

Hard work is the corner stone of success. There’s only a handful of people on this planet that didn’t have to bust their balls to become successful.

But sometimes we forget what’s truly important – the relationships we have with those closest to us. We work so hard to meet high levels of financial success that we lose track of who we’re actually doing this for. Money comes and goes. But time you can never get back.

Try this instead.

For one month, make a plan to spend more time with your loved ones. Plan a few dates with your girlfriend or wife. Take your kids to an event. Hang out with your friends. Make those plans and schedule them in your calendar. Then follow through with them. Do this for a month and you’ll quickly realize that there’s more to life than what’s inside your bank account.

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

Many patients claimed that they held their feelings and emotions within, fearful of expressing themselves.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.”

We are all human and we all have feelings and emotions that we want to express. But more often than not we choose to keep things inside of us. We’re afraid that we would hurt others if we chose to express how we truly feel. However, as Bonnie claims, many of her patients developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried over the years.

Here’s what you need to do.

Next time there’s something on your mind, express it. Don’t hold it back. Have the courage to share your true feelings. If you do so, it will not only keep you healthy but it will also improve the health of your relationships.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Majority of the patients had deep regrets for letting true friendships slip away. They only realized in their dying days the full benefits of old friends.

“It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away.”

I personally fall victim to this one and I outlined the details of my approach in my post 24 things about me that you probably didn’t know. It sounds like the easiest thing in the world – just pick up the phone and say hello. But, for some reason, we tend to lose touch with the ones we care for.

As time passes, we get so caught up in our own lives that we let beautiful friendships slip through our fingers. Bonnie claims that many of her patients had deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

What to do?

It’s as easy as picking up the phone. Don’t put it off. Don’t let friendships slip away because you’re too busy. Pick up the phone and say hello.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Bonnie claims that this was a rather common regret. Many of the patients did not realize until it was too late that true happiness was a choice. They got stuck in their comfort zones and were too fearful to venture out and experience change.

“The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content.”

preach this a lot here at Bloom to Fit, the idea of stepping outside of your comfort zone. The truth is that it’s not easy. We love comfort and fear change. If you really want to make something out of your life and if you want to see what you’re actually capable of , then you’ll need to venture out of your comfort zone and into the land of unfamiliarity.

The final word…

Don’t be content. Don’t ever settle. Let yourself do that one thing you love and let yourself be happy while doing it. And, as often as you can, venture outside your levels of comfort. You might like what you see.

It feels odd to look at things from this perspective at a young age. You feel like you have all the time in the world to make things happen. To make things right.

But you don’t.

Before you know it, you’ll be on your own deathbed thinking about all the wonderful things you did and regretting all the things you didn’t do.

It’s your life. Make sure you live it to the fullest.

Before I end this, I’d like to ask you guys one question: If tomorrow was your last day on Earth, what would be your biggest regret? Share it in the comments below.

21 thoughts on “5 Powerful Regrets that can Change your Life”

  1. Srdjan, these are great topics to reflect on…since each one of us gets only a finite amount of time to be in “existence”. It’s easy to not even notice how fast time seems to slide away. And before we know it, it’s too late to get to all the things we could’ve accomplished.

    -Mitchell

    1. I agree Mitchell – sometimes time does pass us by without a second of reflection. I think it’s important to just step back at times and observe. See where you are in the grand scheme of things. Are you headed in the right path (the one you have set for yourself)? Are you doing the things that you want to be doing? Be honest with yourself, then act accordingly.

  2. Love these “bigger picture” posts! I saw that article a while back and was definitely surprised by some of the responses. Best to make sure you make these things a priority in your life.

    1. Hey Darrin, I’ll be honest I was a bit surprised by them too. Not all of them, but definitely some of them. Either way, I thought it was a very eye-opening perspective that we can all learn from.

  3. This hit me hard. I have been struggling with the fact that just one year ago I was planning my wedding and selling my house. Now, a year later, I am not married and am in a place that a year ago I never thought I would be. I don’t know if I regret how things turned out based on what I knew then, but I do regret that I could not make it work. I am trying now to focus on the bigger picture and moving forward to make sure that I don’t have these regrets you mention above. Thank you for your post.

    1. Hey Amy, thanks so much for your comment. I’m curious, are you regretting that you didn’t follow the plan you had set out for yourself, or you’re regretting that you went through with it and couldn’t make it work?

      In my opinion, you can’t regret mistakes. They are simply too valuable. You can regret not trying at all, but you should NEVER regret putting yourself out there and trying things, even if they happen to end in failure. You just have to chalk those up as learning experiences and keep moving forward. That’s the beauty of life.

      Like I mentioned to Mitchell, it’s nice to step back sometimes and look at the big picture. Analyze your situation and see if you’re in the place you want to be. Then make the appropriate changes if they need to be made.

  4. Dear Srdjan,
    I am a 62 year old breast cancer survivor and found your site while researching kettlebels. I am not from the save the ta-ta school of thought, so I sport the chest of a 4 star Amazon warrior…there is a 9 inch scar on both sides of my chest….too bad that I’m a little gal since Amazons were supposedly big girls. Your post really hit hard since cancer has changed my life in so many ways and attempting to find my new normal is a great adventure. I no longer let anyone baby me about what I can and cannot do, so I’ve joined a gym, work out with a trainer and seek out information and have lots of fun working out and making new friends. I’m getting results too!!! I had very little upper body strength, so I’m improving with simple exercise that I can do at home and by going after new experiences at the gym. Please know that I truly enjoy your site. You will never have to regret living a life where you didn’t care for other people.

    Thanks for all that you do!!!

    Best wishes,
    Beth

    Speaking of regrets….sometimes I wonder if I should regret living a life where I thought that I was doing all of the right stuff and still got cancer.
    That would be such a waste of time……

    1. Hey Beth! Your comments are always inspiring, so thank you for that. 🙂

      As I mentioned in my email, the people who are truly successful are the ones who at some point had their backs against the wall. And, in my eyes, you’re part of that group. Cancer put you in a sink or swim situation and you chose to swim. You chose to fight. And you’ve become that much better for it. You seem rejuvenated and full of life. Sometimes it is those tough moments in life that really change a person for the better.

      As for your last statement, I think about it sometimes as well. I’m putting so much effort and making sacrifices for the sake of my health, but what if it was all to backfire and I still got hit with something? Would I regret things? Absolutely not. It would definitely be a huge waste of time!

      1. Dear Srdjan,
        Your reply made me smile. You are so kind and generous.

        Best wishes,
        Beth

        ps…..you should see me hold a plank!!!!!!!

  5. Can’t think of one now….could be a good thing or I may just need to be on my deathbed to really realize what I haven’t done.

    1. I think that’s exactly what these people experienced – they didn’t realize what they were missing out in life until it was too late. Try stepping back and really being honest with yourself – see if you’re on the path that you want to be. If you are, then you’re set buddy!

  6. If tomorrow was my last day I would have to say that my biggest regret would be that I wasn’t more financially responsible through my late teens and 20’s. Not realizing the future effects of debt and the stress that can be caused by this, ultimately leading to a life or working more and living less, leading to less time for old friends and loved ones, into now I can see the reasons for the unhappiness, and now the lack of people for me to communicate my feelings to. I always make time for my family and always cherish every moment we have together, but looking back if i knew then what i know now, things may be different. Learning early to live within your means may lead to a less stressful future and a greater appreciation for everything you have! Thank you for your posts I always look forward to them

    1. Hey Will, thanks for sharing your story. The fact is, we all make mistakes. It’s part of life. Some mistakes have a stronger ripple effect through life than others, but I feel like you can learn from all of them. Focus on the positive things instead of the negative ones. You still have the time to reconnect, to make better decisions, and to help others understand the effects of poor financial management at a young age. Allow yourself to be happy and always strive to be better!

  7. Thank’s Srdjan! A very enlightening post!
    Just wanted to add a small disclaimer that hopefully won’t cause too much controversy. I think these 5 regrets primarily apply to people living in countries that all follow similar “western” values (i.e. individualism, hard work, success, etc.) It would be interesting to see whether the same regrets apply to people across the world: europe, asia, africa, latin america…

    P.S.: Hello! 😉

    1. Hey Denis, thanks for stopping by buddy! That’s a very interesting point. Although I feel some of the regrets outlined above are universal, I think cultural habits do play an important factor. Keep in mind, however, that the people interviewed for this were in Australia, so it’s not solely based on western (i.e. North American) values. I’ll have to dig in a little more to see who was all included.

  8. This is pretty deep for a fitness blog lol. Solid info man and definitely something I have taken into consideration. Being a blogger and being successful at it will afford me time to do the things I really want.

  9. I love reason #2. Most people think that life is about working hard, but if you don’t get to play and spend time with those that matter to you, then what’s the point. In my opinion, working hard is important to earn you money. And while money itself won’t make you happy, money can buy freedom, and freedom will definitely make you happy!

    Great post Srdjan!

  10. If tomorrow would be my last day on Earth, I would probably regret not living another (-:

    Seriously, though, no one is guaranteed a time. No one knows when it will end. Most people prefer not knowing. So, I try to enjoy each day and not think about whether I will regret anything I did or did not do.

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