The Top 5 Life Regrets

My therapist and good friend, Dr. Angela Thompson, shared with us a study by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse and counselor who worked with terminally ill people for years, sharing the top 5 regrets of those in their final days.

During Bronnie’s experience with these people, she collected data that when summarized below in bold, show the following as the main regrets people had near the end of their lives (commentary offered by Dr. Angela Thompson):


1. “I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations and not the life others expected of me.”

It appears our unfulfilled dreams have a funny way of silently haunting us; they may eventually linger in our dying days. Why worry about what people will say or think about our choices? Their voices will not matter during your final days here.

2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
Many of our lives are taken over by work and pursuing a career. Many end up regretting that they allowed this pursuit to cause them to spend less time with loved ones. I believe many of us can relate to this.

3. “I wish I had the courage to express my feelings and speak my truth.”
I struggle with suppressing my true feelings many times because I want to keep peace with, or don’t want to disappoint others. It’s easy for us to build up anger and resentment which can ultimately affect our mental and physical health. We need not let bitterness cripple us emotionally and stand in the way of fulfilling our true potential. Easier said than done, but let’s try and start today!

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
Many of Bronnie’s patients missed their old friends and regretted not giving those friendships the investment of time and effort they deserved. Think of someone that falls into this category for you today and call or send them a little note (today we call that text message) letting them know you miss them and want to reconnect.

5. “I wish I had let myself be happier.”
Happiness is a choice; this I am slowly learning, and many people have explained to me over the years that happiness isn’t something to be chased or acquired through wealth or social acceptance. Rich or poor, and regardless of life circumstances, we ultimately can make the decision to be happy.

Do you feel like it’s time to make a change so you don’t wake up near the end of your life to find yourself experiencing these regrets? After hearing Angela share her thoughts with on each of these regrets, I found myself journaling like crazy the next few days really evaluating some bigger decisions and associated fears that, in some ways, had paralyzed me the past few years.

With my Retire While You Work philosophy, I encourage you to live your life now, rather than later. I am a huge advocate for self-help and reaching out to those around you, especially getting professional counseling, without fear of what society may think of you. In my opinion, it is healthy to admit that you may not “have it all together.” Let’s challenge ourselves to live in the moment and follow our passions while being honest, communicating with those we love, and most importantly, allowing ourselves to be happy.

Any opinions are those of David Adams and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Dr. Angela Thompson.

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