Top 5 Deathbed Regrets and How to Avoid Them

Grief gives us the golden opportunity to confront our deathbed regrets now – while we can still take action to change the trajectory of our life. Grief is a powerful medicine that immunizes us from a life half-lived. It builds antibodies of purpose, meaning, character, clarity, grit, and resilience.

In her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware shares the most common regrets:

  1. I wish I had lived a life true to my dreams, instead of what others expected of me
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  4. I wish I had let myself be happier.
  5. I wish I’d had the courage to express my true self.

When death or disaster brushes close by, it transports us to our own deathbed in our mind’s eye. This can fuel change. Turn each of the above deathbed regrets into powerful questions. Ask yourself:

  1. How can I let go of the expectations of others, and live a life true to myself and my own dreams?
  2. How can I create a life of meaning and purpose?
  3. How can I build better relationships with friends and family?
  4. How can I design my life so that I’m happy and flourishing?
  5. How can I express my true self more fully, and not die with my music inside me?

Your answers to the above questions can reshape your life. Now that you have realized what you need to do, immediately take some action, no matter how small.  For example, call a friend, or do one thing that makes you happy right now.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life.”

Grief invites constructive revolutions in our way of life. What a gift to be able to change the course of your life in meaningful ways while you’re still young enough to have the vitality to take action!


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