If you were dying tomorrow, what do you think you would regret most? What would you look back on and wish you had done differently, given another try?
A nurse who spent many years working in palliative care - spending day after day with people in the last 3-12 weeks of life - shed some light on this recently.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality, she notes, and that period at the end of one's life allows for a great deal of self-reflection.
When questioned about regrets they had or things they would do differently, common themes surfaced. Time and again. Here are the most common five:
- 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. Countless dreams go unfulfilled, due to choices they had made, or not made. And from the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Are you honoring at least some of those dreams you harbor while you still can?
- I wish I didn’t work so hard. Another familiar refrain. The dying missed their children’s youth, their partner’s companionship. Can you simplify your lifestyle and make conscious choices to do more with less? And by creating more space in your life, be happier without the same commitments of time and stress?
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppress feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settle for a mediocre existence, not what they were truly capable of. Many even develop illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carry. By speaking honestly, you may raise a relationship to a new level, or rid it from your life altogether. Can you break that barrier?
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. There are many deep regrets about friendships and not giving them the time and effort they deserved. Everyone misses friends when they're dying. All that remains in the end, especially the final weeks, are relationships. Are you nurturing yours?
- I wish that I had let myself be happier. This is a surprisingly common one. Old patterns and habits die hard. Unfortunately, so do we. The "comfort" of familiarity and fear of change leaves us susceptible to pretending to others, and to ourselves, that we are content. When deep within, we longed for more. Wouldn't it be wonderful to let go and smile, long before you are dying?
What are your biggest regrets in life? What are the hardest things to change? And what else, if anything, would you add to this list? Discuss below ...