Regret 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.
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.”
I 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.