In her best-selling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, Bronnie Ware shares 5 disappointments people commonly express as they near death. See if any of these ring true for you:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Do one or more of these fit for you? Then you know where to begin to avoid last minute regrets. And it would be good to start now because it takes time to change habits.
However, your regrets may have an entirely different flavor. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until you’re dying to know what you’ll regret. Just take an honest look at your life right now.
If you died this very moment, what would you regret?
Grab a piece of paper and jot down what immediately comes to mind. Then sit with it for awhile.
Positive Qualities That Can Help You Calmly Face Death
This would be my top regret:
More than anything else, I know these inner qualities will help me face death with greater calm and clarity. And, most importantly, without regrets.
These very same qualities enrich each moment and allow me to live joyfully now, when I'm able to call them forth. That's not all the time, by any means. In some moments, my emotions tangle up my mind and pull me in unwise directions. So I know it takes time, intention, and discipline to consistently give rise to the positive.
- That's why I’m called to sit quietly by myself. Quiet tames the the mind, which then naturally exudes these qualities.
- That's why I'm drawn to working in the our small fruit orchard, where thoughts and emotions subside, time vanishes, and the joy of simple presence bubbles up.
These practice strengthen my mind so I can be present for others without becoming ungrounded, unkind, and unhelpful when the least little negative emotion blows.
No doubt your regrets will be different than mine. Whatever you find at the top of your list, your life will become so much more meaningful and fulfilling when you decide to banish regrets right now.
You May Not Have All the Time in the World
Do you ignore the possibility of death and think you have all the time in the world? Most people do, but that could be a mistake.
After being diagnosed with a rare sarcoma, 24-year old Asher Lipson wrote:
“It is frustrating to feel that you have mismanaged your time, or that there isn’t enough time to accomplish the things that you would like to do. Right now I feel that I haven’t used my time well, and it pains me to look back at all of the hours wasted.”
Twenty-four seems too young to die, doesn't it? But this life offers no guarantees. We only know that death is certain, we don't know when or how until it arrives. If we don't wake up and live intentionally, it will be easy to have regrets whether we die at 24 or 104.
10 Simple Guidelines for a Meaningful Life
Did you make a list? If so, it will tell you what you need to do in the present so you don’t look back with regrets. For extra security, here are some simple life guidelines to complement your list.
- Never go to sleep with anger in your heart.
- Express your love daily and don’t forget to include yourself.
- Practice kindness. Even a simple smile can elevate someone’s day.
- Be present and attentive to others instead of being in your head always thinking of the past and future.
- Appreciate all that you have. Chances are it’s much more than most people in the world.
- Understand challenges as opportunities for growth. Lean into them with spaciousness and humor.
- Have faith in yourself. You have enormous potential so don't listen to any inner voices that tell you otherwise.
- Spend quiet time with yourself everyday. Allow the mental chatter to subside so you can get in touch with your true self - the one that continues beyond death.
- Acknowledge any harmful actions right away, ask for forgiveness, and make amends.
- Establish your priorities and re-evaluate them regularly. Whenever you’re about to engage in a task or project, ask yourself, “Will this be important when I die?”
I know this is a tall order so don't put pressure on yourself. Instead, think of it as a list of aspirations. Don't stress about perfection, just do the best you can. Have realistic expectations and be compassionate with yourself. Almost all of us live in confusion with mixed up priorities. Let the delusion peel off one layer at a time, accepting and loving yourself as a work in progress.
If you haven't made your list of regrets yet, considering doing so soon. Then develop counter actions and put them in place one at a time. Glance at your list daily, so you'll never forget to live without regrets.
Do you think you'll have regrets when you die? What regrets come to your mind right now?
I’m so glad you’re here! If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email. If you can take a moment to share this post on social media, I would be very grateful. With love, Sandra