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September 5, 2013     10

Regrets Blog Graphic

Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie Ware was a palliative nurse providing care and company to people in their final weeks. She got to know her patients well and had many meaningful conversations with them about their lives. When Bronnie asked them if they had any regrets or would do anything differently, she began to notice common themes in her patients’ answers, which she felt compelled to capture in a blog, Inspiration and Chai and later in a book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying-A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.

When I read Bronnie’s story and the regrets her patients experienced on their deathbeds, it moved me so deeply I felt compelled to write about it in my own words and share it with you. I hope that it resonates with you as much as it did with me!

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

We spend so much time concerned about what others think of us that we lose sight of who we truly are. We’re afraid that if people knew who we really were they would judge us or reject us all together. Sadly, it’s these types of limiting beliefs that keeps us playing small and not moving forward with our dreams. At the end of your life, you won’t be concerned with other’s opinions or expectations, only those unfulfilled dreams you didn’t achieve when you had the chance. It’s important you not let the opinions or expectations of others deter you from realizing your dreams.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

Although I love coaching and the thrill I get from helping others, I have no desire to work my life away, neglect my relationships or sacrifice my good health by not taking care of myself. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and be remembered by the people who knew you as “the guy who worked too much”. So find work that not only fulfills you, but also provides you the ability to have a personal life. One of life’s universal truths is that balance is a fundamental requirement to a successful life. So live your life consciously, passionately and in balance. Nurture your friendships and relationships and take care of yourself (mind, body and soul).

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

There are a variety of reasons why people keep their feelings to themselves. Some do it because they were brought up to think expressing how they feel is rude. Others are afraid of expressing their feelings for fear of rejection, judgment or attack by others. Regardless of your intentions, keeping things “bottled up” can lead to frustration, anger and resentment. It can rob you of your peace of mind, increase your stress level and ultimately lead to sickness and disease. Part of leading an uncompromised life is being able to politely and calmly voice your opinion, ask for what you need and speak up when you feel you’ve been wronged.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Our friendships are by far one of our most prized possessions. Unfortunately, many people forget this, get caught up in the business of their daily lives and let them slip away. We have a million reasons for neglecting our friendships including personal commitments, long work hours, family obligations, etc. Many of these reasons are completely valid, but when we’re on our deathbed, the only things that are really going to matter are the people that we loved and shared our lives with.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Our society conditions us to look externally to measure our happiness. When we’re not comparing ourselves to others, we’re thinking about all the things we wish we had to make our lives better (more money, a new car, a bigger house, etc.). The fact of the matter is happiness is a choice, not an acquisition. If you want true and lasting happiness, then look inward to determine what you need to do with your life to put a smile on your face and contentment in your heart.

We only have one shot at life and our time here is uncertain, so use the wisdom imparted by those who died before you to focus on those things that ensure your time on this this planet is filled with happiness, fulfillment and love.

In what ways has this blog resonated with you? Can you think of ways to ensure you don’t have these same regrets on your deathbed someday? Join in on the conversation by sharing your experiences in the comments section below.



As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time. If you don’t like something you read here, leave it and only take away what resonates with you.

  • Jill Ozovek says:

    I loved your take on this, Joel! What a great topic to choose to write about. I, too, love this story and it’s something I often remember when I am living my life. For realz. It’s important.

  • I read this some time ago and posted a note about it on my Facebook because it profoundly resonated with me as well.Having lost both my mother and father at a young age I learned to face my own mortality sooner rather than most. I know it sounds morbid but that was the best thing to come out of the death of my parents. I think it’s a privelege to have come to terms with it so young because now I won’t have AS MANY regrets when I leave this world. I’m still working on the one about spending more time with friends. That’s probably the toughest one when you are blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people. But I’m not complaining. Great post Joel. Looking forward to the next one!

    • Joel says:

      Jackie…thank you so much for sharing this with us! I think people, like you, who have been exposed to loss and used it to better themselves and not take life for granted are well equipped to help others in the capacity you plan to…as a life coach. You are going to be an incredible coach!

  • Kat West says:

    Thank you for this. My father is currently in the ICU recovering from a traumatic brain injury. Everyday is progress and a miracle. I find myself applying this post a bit more to Dad right now. I wish he hadn’t worked so hard etc. It’s also making me take stock of life in general. This post is well timed for me and mine. Thank you.

    • Joel says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your father and I wish him a speedy recovery! Death and near death experiences cause us to take stock of our lives and really hone in what matters. Hopefully your father will have time to enjoy the beautiful things in his life including you! As for you, I have no doubt you are going to ensure your life is lived regret free!

  • Barry says:

    Loved reading this. Is something that we should all be reading again and again. It’s so easy to forget these valuable lessons and your thoughtful words. Thank you Joel

    • joelreadence says:

      Thanks Barry! These all seem so easy in theory, but become increasingly difficult to implement in our fast-paced world. I think returning to them on a regular basis is an amazing idea!

  • Joe says:

    Beautiful reminder to recognize the difference between existing and living on purpose. Thanks Joel for the profound reminder. Powerful.

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