These five regrets can be thought of hybrid – Koans borrowed to engage consciousness sans the formal rigor of an audience with a Zen Roshi. The human condition gets into stages of grasping and unfulfilled desires. Our relationship to these five regrets as inquiries can act as pointers for those attractors or detractors which grip or release us.
The regrets are taken from a life long relationship with patients by a palliative nurse Bronnie Ware who has counseled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. This is psychosocial cultural regret which has a variety of beliefs embedded into our work ethic.
Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
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.”