How different would your life be if you chose to live the rest of your days on Earth as your authentic self? By that, I mean you made the conscious and courageous decision not to wait until you die to “shed your costume.” Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse wrote a book that really puts this concept into perspective, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. Ware, spent many years of her life working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. Through this journey she recorded the top five most common regrets we have at the end of our lives.
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often, they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks, and it was not always possible to track them down. 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 when they are dying."
5. 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. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
If there is one thing that Wares journey has taught us all, it’s that, living a life to please others and gain their approval costs us more in the end than we can afford. When we’re nearing the last days of our life, what others thought of us will be the last thing on our minds. So, live out loud, embrace who you really are, make time for family and friends, express your feelings, dream, and ultimately give yourself permission to be happy.