I stumbled upon an article from DailyGood.org by Bronnie Ware titled, Top Five Regrets of The Dying. I just had to read it after seeing an attention-grabbing headline like that.
Ware worked for years with patients who had gone home to die. She was with the patients as they experienced a whirlwind of emotions, such as, “denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance.”
Ware says, “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:”
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
In his book, Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert writes that people regret not taking action more than they regret taking action. Gilbert says this is because if we make a decision and it goes horribly wrong, we can still console ourselves by feeling that we learned a lesson. We tell ourselves that some good can come out of the bad decision.
But when we do not make a decision, or do not take action, we are not left with a lesson to be learned. All we are left with is regret and the question of what could have been.
Ware’s list of top regrets of the dying greatly reinforce Gilbert’s point. All five of the regrets are examples of not taking an action earlier in life.
1. Not taking action to live a life true to myself.
2. Not taking time off from work.
3. Not being able to express my feelings.
4. Not staying in touch with my friends.
5. Not letting myself be happier.
Author Gretchen Rubin says that when faced with an important decision, “Later on, you might feel worse about not taking the risk at all, than you will about a risk that doesn’t succeed.”
If you ever start to doubt that fact, just take a look at the top five regrets of the dying.