With all the distraction that life provides us, it can be easy to let the things that matter fade into the background. While never pleasant, death has the uncanny ability to peel back the layers and get to the heart of what matters. Being aware of death throughout your life can add some perspective to a day, month, or year that seems riddled with tasks and to-do lists. You may have to pick up the kids, make dinner, shop for groceries, and prepare a work presentation, but what really matters may be that you picked up the phone and called your parents or shared a nice bedtime routine with your kids.
Palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware recorded her dying patient’s biggest regrets in their final moments of life to determine what people most often regret before they die. She recorded the top five most common in her blog,Inspiration and Chai in the hopes of helping the living live their life to the fullest. Here’s what she discovered.
1. Not being true to yourself
The biggest regret that Ware’s patients expressed was that they had lacked the courage to live a life that felt true to themselves. By focusing too much on what your parents, co-workers, or peers expect of you, you may be keeping yourself from reaching your full potential, leaving dreams unfulfilled and unattainable. By the time most people realize the value of listening to your heart, it’s often too late.
2. Working too hard
Ware reports that every male patient she nursed mentioned this regret. They were sad to have missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. By constantly focusing on work, family often takes a backseat, and, as a result, notable moments are missed that can never be taken back. One study reports thatspending too much time at work is the biggest regret parents have about their children’s early years. The study found that more than three quarters of parents have at least one thing that they regret doing, or not doing, during the children’s early years.
3. The courage to express your feelings
How many times have you buried your feelings deep inside or kept your mouth shut when something upset you? Many people suppress their feelings as a way to keep peace with others, but by doing this you actually keep that resentment, anger, and bitterness inside you, poisoning your reactions toward others and yourself. It takes courage and self-assurance to express your feelings in an honest manner, but by dealing with difficult issues head-on you can live a fuller life devoid of regret.
4. Distance between old friends
It can be far too easy to let old friends slip away as you find yourself consumed by the busyness of life. Those on their deathbed were able to understand the significant value of old friends and special friendships, and often tried to reconnect with those they had let slip away. Make sure to carve out time to reconnect with those you love, as true friendships are rare and valuable.
5. Loss of happiness
With so many things to worry over and stress about, Ware discovered that many people allowed pure happiness to slip away. Most people don’t realize that happiness is a choice you make everyday. She found that people were fearful of change and found themselves pretending to others, and themselves, that they were content when they really wanted to let go and find true happiness.