Bronnie Ware has written about the five most common deathbed regrets she heard during her time working as a palliative carer.  She has published two books on the subject.  Here, I have listed the five title sentences from her findings, but the thoughts and explanations for each one are my own.


1 – I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This boils down to not caring what others think.  Worrying about the approval of others; whether that’s family, close friends or even just acquaintances and strangers (social media has a lot to answer for) is a recipe for stress.  You may strive to keep others happy, but if they truly care for you, they will want you to be as content as possible.  If they fall by the wayside, then they didn’t truly appreciate the real you.  You can find your own tribe.  But the only person you should feel the need to impress is your own conscience.  The aim is to have your own approval, and do what you can to be your true, authentic self.  It’s the path to peace.


2 – I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Seems obvious, and you’ve probably herd the phrase that nobody on their deathbed wished they’d spent more time at the office!  But there’s truth in that glib statement.  Whilst there’s absolutely nothing wrong with hard work, it should be that the positives outweigh the negatives.  Remind yourself what you’re working towards, or for.  If it’s to support your lifestyle, and makes you feel good, then great!  But if you are depressed at work, or feeling overloaded, it’s time for a rethink.  Ask yourself why you work.  It’s to pay for things, sure, but also to provide the means for experiences and to create good memories.  If work is cutting into your free time, or you are missing recreational or family events, then perhaps re-evaluate your priorities.  As an additional note, your loved-ones want to see you and have memories with you.  You probably don’t remember what you parents bought you for Christmas and Birthdays, but I bet you remember special times spent together.  If you enjoy working, then great.  But it should not be the only thing in your life.  The magic word is always balance.


3 – I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I saw a meme recently that said: ‘Best friends see each other three times a year and have no pictures together.’  It was meant to be wryly funny, but actually made me sad to realise how close to the truth it really was.  The weeks and months fly by, and everyone has such busy diaries that it’s hard to make the time.  One minute you’re in your teens and early twenties and your friendship circle is incredibly close and important.  You speak all the time, know everything about each other, and meet up just to hang out.  The next, you’ve all moved, got families and jobs, and getting together just becomes an effort.  Lockdown hasn’t helped, either.  We have got used to not socialising and staying in with the tv.  This reminder from those at the end of their lives is a message to keep in touch or renew contact with friends.  Research shows that you laugh more when in the company of others than at any other time.  Sadness can take care of itself, but to get the full measure of joy, it must be shared.  Time to send that WhatsApp!


4 – I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Does anyone remember that film Peggy Sue Got Married? Or 17 Again?  Or 13 Going on 30?  I think what they all have in common is that if we could go back to our younger selves, knowing what we know now, we’d be more honest about our feelings.  But I’m not just talking about declarations of love.  It’s also things such as what you’re passionate about, what you enjoy, and being honest with yourself and others.  Clear and open communication, too.  I have found over the years that it’s best to be honest, and it saves time.  For instance, let’s say I’m invited out but I don’t want to go.  If I give excuses, it can bounce back.  “I don’t have any money”  “I’ll lend you some!”  “I can’t get there”  “I’ll pick you up!” and so on.  If I just say “Sorry, I’m really tired and need some down time.  I just want to stay in with the telly in my pyjamas and get an early night tonight, but I’d love to get together soon.  Let’s arrange another date.”  Then I’ve been honest, which is respectful to the person who invited me, and that should be the end of the matter.  This is a trivial example, but honesty really is the best policy, as long as you are considerate, too.  This also ties in with not caring so much about what other people think, and living a life true to yourself.  There’s a theme going on!


5 – I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This feels like a very personal statement, and will no doubt have different inferences for each individual.  But, much as I hate to say it, I think it comes down to the ‘Glass Half Full’ outlook, sorry!  In today’s modern world, we are being constantly bombarded with consumerism.  The push for us to purchase things, which can only come from first making us feel ‘less than’.  You will be happier if you have this newer phone, exercise machine, holiday, sofa, styling product, beverage, …  It’s like a never-ending game of ‘Simon Says’.  Keeping up with the Joneses is how we are made to feel, and it’s very hard indeed to step away from the conveyor belt.  Another good habit is that, when we are looking at what we don’t have, we also then do a quick inventory of what we do have.  It’s only human to compare yourself to others and have feelings of envy sometimes.  But then compare yourself to a large percentage of the world, and see how blessed and fortunate you are.  Guilt is another thing that can stop us being happy.  Sometimes as children we learn not to be proud, arrogant or boastful, which can get warped into thinking that modesty and humility equals purity.  But it is ok to be pleased and proud of yourself.  This also ties in with living a life true to yourself and not conforming.  Lastly, don’t compare yourself to others, go at your own rate and acknowledge your own progress and victories.  The secret of happiness is not necessarily in the big things, it’s in the thousands of little, everyday things.  And an attitude of gratitude helps.


I’d like to end with a couple of quotes that always help me.  The first is this: Yard by yard, life is hard.  Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.  The second is this: A happy life is just a string of happy memories.  Don’t miss the happy memories waiting for the happy life.


For the personal touch, get in touch.


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