Mind

Gemma McCaw's top tips on how to live life without regrets

Don’t wait until it’s too late to discover what really matters in life.

By Gemma McCaw

I love the idea of trying to live with few regrets. Australian palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware spent several years tending to patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.

She began recording their top regrets as they looked back at their lives and went on to write an inspirational and moving book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. Here they are, as witnessed by Bronnie. For more info, visit bronnieware.com or inspirationandchai.com.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

People often didn't realise the beauty of old friends until their final weeks, when they started thinking of friendships that had slipped by over the years.

Bronnie says, "There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

Bronnie's male patients in particular all wished they'd spent less time working, realising as they neared the end that they'd missed their children growing up 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."

I wish I had let myself be happier

Many people did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice.

Bronnie says that often it was a fear of change that had them pretending to others and to themselves that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have frivolity in their lives again.

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

The most common regret of all was having unfulfilled dreams, Bronnie explains.

"Most people had not honoured 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 realise until they no longer have it."

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

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others," says Bronnie, who explains that they often felt they'd settled for a mediocre existence, rather than striving for greatness. Some of her patients even developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried.

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