HJ: The regrets of the dying offer us profound insight into what we can do to make living our lives more fulfilling and ultimately happier and richer. We have a tendency to get so caught up in the rhythms of day to day life that we often times forget to step back, get centered and truly evaluate what it is we are doing with our lives — are we are making progress towards accomplishing those things that we dream for ourselves? Are we nourishing our relationships with the people that are important to us in life? Are we making time for rest, relaxation and play? Are we really, truly at peace with our lives and where we are at?
Sometimes the answers to these questions are uncomfortable or we know we are neglecting certain aspects of our lives. It can be painful to face that which we know is out of balance and so we hide from it, sometimes for an entire lifetime — and then we are faced with this regret as we lay on our death bad. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can make a conscious decision today to face those areas of your life which may need a little focus and attention to be brought back into balance. By understanding the top 5 regrets of the dying outlined below, you can liberated from making the same ‘mistakes’ as they did while you still have time to refocus your priorities in life.
Ultimately all conscious evolution is building upon the work and understanding of others or our own past experiences. You can save yourself a lifetime of ‘trouble’ (literally…) by learning from the regrets of the dying instead of experiencing the same situation yourself.
With all that being said, from a non-dual perspective, which is the true nature of the universe, even making the same choices as the dying did below in your life is a learning lesson that you may yet choose to experience firsthand. There is nothing wrong with that and it is absolutely perfect as is. You may need to personally experience the regret in this lifetime to learn the lesson once and for all so that in future incarnations you do not make the same choices. For some, simply reading an article such as this or attending to a relative as they lay dying is enough for them to learn the lessons. Others may choose a more direct, visceral experience to cement their understanding. Which ever path you choose, it is perfect as is.
We only use the word ‘mistake’ in this article to highlight the natural impetus of consciousness and the soul towards growth and ultimately learning and internalizing the lessons described in this article. In that sense, avoiding recognizing the profound truths in the wisdom below is resisting the overall flow of the evolution of consciousness towards greater happiness and fulfillment, however, it is fine, as ultimately all paths lead to this destination anyways. Some just take longer to get there than others.
Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
By Elisha Goldstein Ph.D | Psych Central
I’ve always been interested in the wisdom of our elders and often do a practice with students and clients when they’ve seemed to veer off the path of what truly matters in their lives. I ask them to project themselves forward many years from now looking back onto this very moment right now, what do they wish they would’ve done? Bronnie Ware is an Australian Nurse who spent many years working in palliative care caring for those who were dying. She eventually published a book called the The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Regrets can be seen as something that’s good if they give us insight into what we can change today for the better. Here are the Top 5. Use them as north star to help guide your actions in the days that follow toward an even more fulfilling life. Although we can veer off the path, when we notice the star, we can always come back to it.
Top 5 Regrets of the Dying:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. From the time we’re born we’re looking to our parents to teach us the rules of this world and to guide our expectations about how we should or shouldn’t act. Looking to our culture or other people to guide how we should dress, speak, act, and even what kind of profession we should be in is common. What would it look like to get in touch with what seems right to you and live an authentic life?
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. As the saying goes, no one ever kicked themselves on their deathbeds for missing a day of work. Sometimes we work too much out of routine, other times from other people’s expectations and sometimes as an addictive behavior to avoid discomfort. Are there things that may be more valuable to pay attention to where we can loosen up on working so hard and pay attention to things that nourish us more?
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Whether it’s at work, in a friendship or a partnership we make the snap judgment to bite our tongue rather than being assertive. Standing in an authentic life means becoming aware of and expressing our feelings. This may be a missed opportunity to let others know we love them that can create deeper connections or maybe it’s a time when someone hurts us and we stay silent out of fear. Learning how to become more aware of our emotions and express them in a skillful way can help us feel more connected, self-reliant and happy.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. There’s no question. At the crux of feeling happy and fulfilled in life is having nurturing relationships. There are so many ways to stay connected nowadays through text, chat, email, social media, the phone and of course face to face. How might you make it a priority to make relationships an integral part of your day to day life?
- I wish that I had let myself be happier. Bronnie Ware said that many people didn’t notice until the end of life that happiness is a choice. With awareness we can make conscious choices about what nourishes us and what depletes us. What beliefs we want to invest in and which ones we don’t. We may get hooked into states of high stress, anxiety, depression and even trauma reactions, but at some point we get to choose how we want to relate to them and this may help us ride them with more grace. Maybe it’s time to play a little more, what makes you happy?
Take a moment to look back once again at these five regrets people have had and see where you can begin integrating these more into your life starting today.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.