Five Regrets at Death (Achievement Nudge about Power to Choose)

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Last Updated on July 9, 2024 by Bill Truby

How many regrets do you think you will have at the end of your life? There are five that top the list for most people. This Nudge is to help you avoid them.

Achieve Freedom from Regrets

Bronnie Ware is a nurse who worked for many years in palliative care, a special kind of medical attention given to dying patients. While giving them comfort and care, she would ask them if they had any regrets about their life. Over the years, five regrets rose to the top. She wrote about these top five. Understanding them can help us avoid them.

The first and foremost regret was living a life others expected, instead of being true to self. Patients would speak of dreams they never realized because they let others affect the choices they made or didn’t make.

The second regret on the “top five” was wishing they hadn’t worked so hard. Nurse Ware said that EVERY male patient spoke of this regret, but a large percentage of women did, too. And the regret was not so much about working hard, but of choosing hard work over spending time with their children, or doing things that made them happy.

The third regret was not having the courage to express their feelings. Under the guise of “keeping the peace,” they chose to put up with problems and/or negative people. But this choice to make peace on the outside didn’t give peace on the inside. Rather, it resulted in the patient carrying bitterness or other intense emotions that often negatively affected their health.

The fourth regret had to do with friendship. The patient would speak about getting so caught up in their own lives that they didn’t make the choice to reach out to friends, especially old friends. Laying on that death bed brought an intense awareness of the happiness friendship gives to life. The regret surrounded losing the value of friendship simply by not making the choice to reach out and maintain those friendships.

The fifth regret was that they let life steal their happiness instead of choosing to keep it. Through the uncluttered eyes of the dying experience, patients developed a keen sense of clarity that happiness is a choice. They knew now that they could have been happy in all of life’s experiences, if they simply chose to be.

When I read this list of the top five death-bed regrets, I realized there was a theme to the themes. It was “not exercising choice”! Embedded in the expressions of regret was a clear message, “I didn’t CHOOSE to be me; I didn’t CHOOSE to spend time the way I wanted; I didn’t CHOOSE to live MY life.”

Obviously, then, the way to eliminate having regrets at the end of life is to make choices about how you live your life…today. And, if you can own and exercise your POWER of choice, you will never have to experience the saddest phrase in the English language, “It’s too late!”


Bill Truby

Founder and President of Truby Achievements