The Top 5 Regrets

January 11, 2012 14 Comments TAGS: Career, Friendship, Marriage

By Guest Blogger Bronnie Ware

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal.

Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

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 have 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.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work 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.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

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

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

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.  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. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

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.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, and choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Keep smiling & have a wonderful life.


About Bronnie Ware

Bronnie Ware is an inspiring and creative soul from Australia.

Through her work Bronnie weaves delightful tales of real life observations and experience. Bronnie celebrates both the strength and vulnerability of human nature. Her message is a positive and inspiring one.

As well as performing her own songs, Bronnie runs an online personal growth and songwriting course, writes a well-loved blog called Inspiration and Chai, including articles that have been translated into several languages, and is the author of the full-length memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, recently released worldwide.

You can visit Bronnie online at

What are your thoughts? Has this post made you reflect upon how you are living your own life? Has it made you want to make changes going forward?



    1. […] think if you want to live a life that’s full, you too have to live it with a “no regrets” motto. No regrets, because at some point, that decision you made was exactly what felt right […]

    2. Deathbed regrets is a really great topic to think about, because given the awareness of other people’s regrets, we can choose to live life to the full. I’ve extended on that idea and written a sensitive response here:

    3. […] learned the top 5 regrets people have as they are dying. It was powerful beyond words, and made us all take stock of our […]

    4. Ali DaviesNo Gravatar says:

      These points should be a wake up call to us all to grab our lives by the scruff of the neck and shake ’em into shape. I am a big believer in designing your ideal life based on your core values and then looking for ways to turn that into reality.

      We all think we have so many years ahead of us but you never know when something will happen unexpectedly, that will take away the people you love or stop you having the life you want. My husband and I have learnt that lesson well in recent years when he had a life threatening illness. Thankfully our story had a happy ending and he is fine again now. But it was a real wake up call.

    5. RaquelNo Gravatar says:

      What an amazing post! I have read this 5 times by now, to really absorb this. I am going to print this out so I can remind myself all the time. Sometimes we get so caught up in ‘life’, that we forget to ‘live’. Thank you for sharing this Erica and thank you for writing this Bronnie.

    6. ErinNo Gravatar says:

      Very touching post, thanks for sharing. If you liked this post, there is a site called you may want to check out. It was started by a woman named Jennifer Goodman Linn in NYC who was diagnosed with Sarcoma at the age of 33. She took her diagnosis and channeled it in to so many positive things; including one of the fastest growing charity fundraisers in the US (Cycle for Survival). Sadly, Jenn lost her hard fought battle this past July at the age of 40. Her friends and family are keeping her site going. It’s dedicated to enriching your life by removing fear from the equation. Jenn’s blog entries are still archived on the site and her message/mission are posted on the site. Her last entry on July 17th, just 3 days before she passed away, speaks to this post in so many ways.

    7. CathyNo Gravatar says:

      “We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.” Love this part! and this one too: “Always be true to yourself”. Great article, it made my day! Thank you Erica!

    8. Erica DiamondNo Gravatar says:

      I am so glad this touched you and impacted you as much as it did me. What a perfect refresher and reminder for January. Have a wonderful day all!

    9. AnneNo Gravatar says:

      Beautifully said. So powerful.

    10. Wendy Irene says:

      This post really touched my heart! I think when we are really in touch with the fact that our time is limited when can live life to the fullest. It is so easy to forget. Thank you for sharing this!

    11. TracieNo Gravatar says:

      This is great. I’ll read and reread to ensure I really embrace it.

    12. ABNo Gravatar says:

      Love this. Especially like the part about expressing honest feelings and I shared it with someone who just had a baby and is struggling with a manipulative, mean, controlling mother. She’s always on eggshells but her best bet is to just be honest instead of worrying of how her mother will react, and/or lying because she’s trying to control the reaction. “We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.”

    13. Lise RoseNo Gravatar says:

      This is one of the best things I have read in a while. Deeply introspective and profound. Thank you for sharing with us.

    14. BrendaNo Gravatar says:

      This really puts life in perspective. I want to live my life with no regrets on my deathbed. Great post and reminder.

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