Five Regrets of The Dying by Bronnie Ware

Yesterday, I gave a talk on ‘Is Life A Race?’ at IoBM (CBM) and most of the people liked. Yet, some felt it was more on the ‘idealistic’ side. In ‘real life’ one can’t get out of the ‘rat race’.

Well, if we don’t want to die thinking what we could have done better, we have to work towards a more fulfilling life.

A friend of mine forwarded me this email a couple of weeks back. Which I thought I’d share with you. Thanks Dr Badr Dhanani for this.

It’s food for thought for all of us who still have time on our hands (or so we think!) to make amends. Before ‘Its too late’!

But, in the end, the choice is always OURS. The choice to think and the choice to choose happiness.

I quote:

Five Regrets of the Dying

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 realise 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 honour 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 realise, 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. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
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 realise 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 realise 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 themselves, 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, choose honestly.
Choose happiness.


Live a remarkable, happy, fulfilling life.

Nuruddin Abjani

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  • Guest

    But this is also an ideal situation, how can you not work hard when you have siblings and parents to support morally and financially in the world of capitalist, I don’t think we can ever become like them and follow what you/they says, since 90% families depends on one person earning, just imagine the cost of education and health alone here in our beloved capitalist country. You should address the 90% of this country instead of 5% capitalist, just a food for thought.. sorry if any inconvenience caused.

    • Dear Guest,

      Thanks for your comment on this blog.

      I really appreciate your point of view.

      The 5 regrets that we are talking about ARE the ones that people usually most regret.

      Everyone has responsibilities, problems – both financial & otherwise, challenges that only they can imagine & a score of other things which make their lives miserable or happy.

      In the end, what matters are these 5 things, if you really think about it.

      Please read it one more time and I am sure you will get a different perspective.

      What I have shared in this post is how we are so engrossed with our lives that we don’t see beauty, love, friendship, family, fulfilling our dreams.

      Its all about choosing happiness.

      Happiness is always a matter of choice. Nothing to do with our circumstances.

      No need to feel guilty while having fun. Or when you are happy.

      Work hard, but be happy.

      Most of our evenings, we sit in front of the TV or our computers & ‘forget’ ourselves. Or curse the ‘system’.
      The same time could be utilized in having fun. Cheap, simple fun. Meeting/calling friends, going out for ‘pathan ki chai’ (roadside tea), spending time with your dear & near ones, et al.

      Hope this helps.

      Stay blessed.


  • Good thought man. I like your five regrets very much. You have explained in a good manner with lot of different words. I need to choose happiness from your blog.

  • Anonymous

    i never knew you came to IoBM

  • Enjoyed reading your blog!
    You are inspiring me a lot lately, may be because I need it! I guess this is how it works, you ask and you get!
    Its funny that the moment you think you have the clarity, boom you are challaged yet again.
    I read an thought provoking quote “breed clarity through simplification”

    Life is beautiful and worth living!
    May God guide you in everything that you do!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Shamim for the kind words. Yes, thats how it works, The Power Of Thought!
      God bless you too.

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