Bronnie Ware was a nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last weeks of their lives, and recorded her experiences in a blog. She wrote an excellent post about the most common regrets of the dying, which became so popular she expanded it into an entire book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing about how we can live better lives by addressing these common regrets. (The blog post has been reprinted in various places, I found it in an AARP magazine.)
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. I used to think of this as people not doing all the things on their “bucket list”. But it is more nuanced than that. Most people aren’t even acting to pursue their dreams and live harmoniously with their personal values, let alone worry about not achieving them. Instead, we are worried about not being rich enough or having the neatest stuff or posting trendy things on Facebook.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. Ware says it best herself:
All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. My interpretation of this one is that you should not be afraid to cut out the negative influences on your life, and also be sure to nurture the positive influences. Life’s too short to deal with people that bring you down. Meanwhile, we should let the awesome people know how much we appreciate them.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. If I died today, this would be a major regret. Every time I move, I leave behind great friends that I lose touch with.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. Happiness is a choice. I remember reading this concept in the bestseller Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I prefer the phrase that life is a choice. Conscious living is pretty much the common base of any life improvement exercise, which includes all personal finance blogs.