The Top 5 Regrets of The Dying

Justin Zoradi

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. As many of her patients approached their final days, she would ask if they had regrets or things they would do differently.

Ware was so surprised by the phenomenal clarity of vision people gained at the end of their lives that she began documenting their responses.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. 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, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

*Photo by Rosie O’Beirne, Creative Commons

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“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. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

This list hit me like a ton of bricks. I hope it did the same for you.

It’s remarkable how small things that don’t actually matter can dominate our days. They seem so innocent at first. A few extra hours in the office. Forgetting to call our friends back. Bottling up our emotions. Choosing a job you don’t enjoy for higher pay.

These small decisions, while completely rational, slowly but surely pull us away from the things that matter most.


I’d like you to do two things for me:

    1. In the comment section below, write out what on this list hit you hardest. Then write the one thing you’re going to do to change it. Be specific. You’ll see mine in the comment section too.

    2. Go tell someone so they can keep you accountable. Tell your spouse, children, roommate, or best friend about the thing you’re going to do to ensure you live your life without any of these five regrets.

Go ahead. Call someone. Send a quick email, text, or Facebook message and tell someone you love how he or she can help you.

I look forward to seeing your responses.

*Originally reported by Susie Steiner from The Guardian

Justin Zoradi

Justin Zoradi

This is a post by Justin Zoradi, one of the Storyline Contributors. Pick up a copy of his latest book, Doing Work That Matters, on his website and make sure to follow along on Twitter (@justinzoradi) for regular updates. To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.