Bronnie Ware was a palliative nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 3 - 12 weeks of their lives. She revealed the most common regrets found among her patients near the end of their lives.
The top two most common reasons were:
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 realise 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 honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that she nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men she nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
We only have a better perspective of how we should have lived life and make better use of our time when we come near to the end of our life. Perhaps it has to do with the system that we are all caught up in. Our time is monetized, which means that our priorities are always directed to using it to maximize a return on our time. Most of us work 8 hours a day and are paid for our time to do the work. We need an hour or two each day for self-care, which is important, although we don’t put a monetary value on it. We need another hour or two to catch up with personal and household errands each day. That perhaps leaves an hour or two remaining for family members and children, which seemed so marginal. Of course, most of us have learned to outsource time – to caregivers who are willing to care and spend time with older parents or children to make up for our “lost time” with them. And it is only in the later years of our life that we would put a higher value on time spent with family members and children, and how we should
live our life.
Perhaps we should pose these questions to ourselves early in life while we are still healthy and living active lives – how do I want to live my life and how can I invest quality time with family members, our children and grandchildren.