The Top 5 Regrets of Those About to Die (With Lessons for the Living)

We all like to think we will live forever.  That’s been my plan.  But life has a different reality in store for all of us.  You might have heard the expressions “live like there is no tomorrow”, or “live each day as if it was your last”.

What would change for you if you took this advice?  How often do you experience the joy of living fully?

I did an exercise some years back that impacted me significantly.  The exercise was writing my own obituary.  Morbid stuff- yes, definitely, but emotionally provoking.  It changed many of my priorities.  I highly recommend it.

This Top 5 Regrets list was compiled by Bronnie Ware, author and palative care worker who worked with countless patients in their last days.  Here is a summary of The Top 5 Regrets of Those About to Die:


  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.  It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way.


  1.  I wish I didn’t work so hard.  Most missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.  No one said I wished that I had worked more. It was not money or status that held importance to them.


  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.  Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.


  1.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends –  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 and family when they are dying.


  1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.  This is a surprisingly common one.  Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a  choice.  Fear of change, staying stuck in old habits and patterns was a common theme, but it doesn’t have to be that way at all.  No one worried about what others thought about them.  They wished that they had been sillier and laughed more often.


At the end of life, people think about love and relationships, and the meaning that their lives had.  Nothing else is of much importance.

What do you want your life to be about?

Maybe it’s time to choose to live and love fully today.  This is YOUR life.  Follow your heart!   Pursue your dreams!   And CHOOSE to live a life of Zero Regrets!

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.  –J. R. Tolkien

December 1, 2011
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