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What are the Top Regrets of the Dying?

By Margaret Manning April 20, 2013 Mindset

After palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware wrote an online article highlighting the top five regrets of the dying, people all over the internet began cataloguing their own aspirations and wishes. Ware listed the top 5 regrets of her patients as follows:

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

I wish I didn’t work so hard

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

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

I wish that I had let myself be happier

Most people have similar wistful thoughts when they think about their own lives slipping by.  The fact is, dying is an opportunity to examine how life should be lived.  Is life really about making a living?  Is it about doing what appears to be the right thing, to your community, family and acquaintances?  Is it about keeping a stiff upper lip so that others won’t feel uncomfortable at your emotional displays?

Chances are, it’s not. Life – real life – is about creativity, spontaneity, expression and love.

That’s why dying people, and those who love them, often realize they spent way too much time being a responsible adult and not enough time really connecting with what it means to be alive.

Other answers that surfaced in response to Ware’s list of deathbed regrets included letting opportunities slip by, failing to follow important dreams, refusing to resolve conflicts with loved ones, holding onto bitterness, and not being silly enough.

Think about it.  We spend our entire childhoods learning how to be adults, but what it amounts to is a lifetime of barricading ourselves inside an idea of what is supposed to be successful. Then, as life slips away, we realize too late that we should have been more childlike in our ways.

But all the same, it doesn’t pay to get down about what you haven’t done. If you read this list of regrets and any of them resonate, then it’s time to make a change.  Next time someone suggests a living room dance party, don’t say no.  Get up on your feet and be the first to give it a go.  So what if you’re uncomfortable?

What we can learn from this list of regrets is that being uncomfortable is hugely worthwhile. Being uncomfortable means following your gut instincts, saying what you mean and meaning what you say, expressing your love and gratitude for the people you love, and taking chances.

Of course it’s not as comfortable as following society’s ideas of what is acceptable.  But if that kind of comfort leads to a host of dying regrets, what’s the point? You have only one life to live, so live it.  Think of the top five regrets of the dying as a gift – an impetus to start living your life as you want it.  And be sure to remind everyone you know about the precious spontaneity of life.  It’s a message that bears repeating.

If you knew that you were soon to die, what would your top regrets be? What is the one thing that you could do differently starting today to live a more fulfilled, happy, and satisfying life? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below…


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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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