What can the top regrets of the dying teach us about living?

Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse, spent time working with many people who were dying and came up with themes of things repeated time and time again. She called these the top 5 regrets of the dying. These regrets were:

  • I wish I hadn’t worked 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 I had let myself be happier

She found that the top regret of the dying was  – I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.


Many of us spend our lives living on autopilot. We do what is expected of us. We follow the path that others do. We do what we “should” do. We do what it takes to keep life ticking over. Often life is so full that we don’t even stop to question whether this is all that life could be. We don’t give ourselves the space or the time to really consider what it is that we long to be doing or what we wish our life could look like. Sometimes it takes a diagnosis or a death of a loved one to challenge us to think about the purpose of life or what it is all for. Until we have a wake up call then life goes on as it always has done.

What would a life true to yourself be? What would you bring to the world that only you can bring?

For me it is about doing things now rather than waiting until I’m ready. I’ve often wanted to do a good job and so I have procrastinated from starting things for fear of getting it wrong and feeling like I’m not good enough. If you wait until you feel ready, then things never happen. You never wake up one day and know how to do that thing perfectly. No one ever feels ready. It’s a secret of life. The difference between people who succeed and those who don’t are that successful people do it anyway. Successful people know that failure is part of success. You can’t have one without the other. Over time you get better at things. But everyone has to start somewhere. Starting means that you’re ahead of everyone else who doesn’t even start. And if you keep going… well you keep gaining and are always way ahead of those who haven’t started yet.

Tony Robbins says that “life is a dance between what you desire the most and what you fear the most”. Saying yes to fear means living a life where what you desire the most never gets to be. Your dreams never come to fruition. And on your death bed you have the same regrets that everyone else has.

I’ve started being braver at pushing myself out of my comfort zone to do things before I’m ready. I figure that my future self will be grateful I had a go, even if it involved a lot of learning and sometimes feeling silly.

My guess is that most people given a year to live would try to seize the moment, seize the day. Try new things, have special experiences, spend more time with loved ones, get outside into nature, spend less time at work, do those things you’ve been putting off for the future. So why do we wait until the end of life to make the most of it?

If you’d like some help to make a change, to find what it is you want to bring to the world or even if life feels too stuck or hard at the moment to contemplate a better future then I’d love to work with you to bring about the change you’d love to see.

Find out about my workshop: Love Yourself First