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Top five regrets of the dying
Old 02-24-2012, 04:03 PM   #1
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Top five regrets of the dying

An interesting newspaper article about people in their final days and what they say they regret most about their lives.

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There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

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 hadn't worked 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.
Many of these are frequently discussed here. Article m.guardian.co.uk
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:05 PM   #2
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Note that as some of say in the FIRE crowd (and those Questing for FIRE), few people lay on their deathbed regretting that they didn't work more.

Sounds like a pretty good list, and it does seem to me these would be the regrets -- too much pursuit of the material at the expense of personal relationships and happiness.
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:15 PM   #3
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I would love to hear a few anecdotes of what exactly people meant by their dreams. The knee-jerk thought is that they chose the safe career over a risky venture, but maybe people have more unique dreams that we don't know about? I think it would be a great lesson to all of us to hear another human being's innermost confessed dreams on their deathbed, as it might help us identify our own dreams in our own lives.

It's also interesting how the blog mentions that "revealing feelings" doesn't necessarily mean telling loved ones you loved them. It also includes speaking your mind when someone wrongs you. Again, would love to hear specific anecdotes from actual lives in how this would have improved one's life so much.
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:26 PM   #4
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Great list, I printed it out to read it several times...
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:56 PM   #5
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I'll wish I could have accomplished it earlier.
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Old 02-24-2012, 05:06 PM   #6
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What a great article! It's good to see a post touching on the non-financial aspects of FIRE.

I actually think about this issue a lot. Especially over the last decade, I've tried to live my life in a way that will minimize the regrets I might feel when I'm sitting in my rocking chair at 80 looking back. Things like leaving the corporate world to start my own "business", no matter how lucrative; striving to be a good wife and daughter; speaking my mind more often.

I think #5 is the trickiest. I know I worry too much and suspect I get in the way of my own happiness sometimes. I try to balance that with a sense of gratitude for what I do have, and a leniency for any poor decisions I've made over the years, financial or otherwise.
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Old 02-24-2012, 05:07 PM   #7
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Of the five regrets listed....I'd say 2 on the list I would personally agree with. Another 2 couldn't be helped. I did the best I could on the other.
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Old 02-24-2012, 05:10 PM   #8
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This link was posted previously here by Omni550. Thanks to midpack for the heads up. I think the list deserves a reprint. It reminds me of a Saul Bellow book but I can't find the reference...
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:45 PM   #9
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I would love to hear a few anecdotes of what exactly people meant by their dreams. The knee-jerk thought is that they chose the safe career over a risky venture, but maybe people have more unique dreams that we don't know about? I think it would be a great lesson to all of us to hear another human being's innermost confessed dreams on their deathbed, as it might help us identify our own dreams in our own lives.
Again, would love to hear specific anecdotes from actual lives in how this would have improved one's life so much.
We've been telling our daughter for years that she should take a stab at something risky or difficult just so that she doesn't spend the rest of her life wondering "What if?"

For example she was infatuated with the U.S. Naval Academy for years (because she saw how the senior officers were living there). We had some pretty strong opinions about that but we encouraged her to apply on the principle of "What if?" She came back from a "try-it" week there saying "OK, I know enough now, I'm going to apply to Rice instead."

She's going through the same process now with the submarine force. It looks like she has the chops to succeed there, and again we parents have some pretty strong opinions about her trailblazer ambitions, but we're encouraging her to pursue the idea on the "What if?" principle.

Spouse went through the same thought process with the decision to volunteer at a non-profit. However now that she's 86 days into a 180-day sentence, she places the blame squarely on me...

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Great list, I printed it out to read it several times...
"I wish I could remember what I've already read!"
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:22 PM   #10
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I would love to hear a few anecdotes of what exactly people meant by their dreams. The knee-jerk thought is that they chose the safe career over a risky venture, but maybe people have more unique dreams that we don't know about?...
I dunno about other unique dreams, but I know about giving up a cushy job at a megacorp to join a couple of risky ventures that went belly up. I started moonlighting with these ventures 19 years ago, and left megacorp 16 years ago, when I thought there was a chance that they could make it. They eventually went belly-up. I lost a few years of pay, working for free trying to keep one venture afloat.

Had I stayed with megacorp, I would be close to being able to retire now with a pension of a few $K a month. Of course there would also be the 401k matching over those years. In terms of money lost, it would be quite a bit. Yes, this megacorp provided both a pension and a matching 401k, though it took away the subsidized health care for retirees.

However, what I gained besides the "scars" was that once I came out of the above ordeal, I decided I could not work full-time for anyone anymore. Instead, I have been working mostly part-time, either as a free-lancer or as a contractor. The years of working for free had taught me that I could survive without an umbilical cord to a megacorp, and in fact without income for a while. Once one has the taste of freedom, it is tough to go back into a cage.

So, financially, I would do better staying with the megacorp, but in terms of life experiences, I do not regret a thing. Of course, had I ended up living under a bridge, I would have thought otherwise.

Yet, somehow, I have more money than many of my friends who are still with the megacorp. How did that happen? I think that having to live frugally in those tough years meant that I wasted less money and learned to invest better. And I have had more freedom to fool around while they still toil at their 8-to-5 job.

To borrow from Edith Piaf, "je ne regrette rien" ("I regret nothing").


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Old 02-25-2012, 03:42 AM   #11
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I wonder if it takes the dying "process" (knowing one is on the way out) to help focus clearly on these regrets. I already have some regrets - mostly about not spending enough time with friends and family. Still, as I look at the list, it is unclear to me that any of these will become a "big" regret when the time comes. They all make sense, and I also wonder if anyone gets to that point and DOESN'T have some combination of those regrets.

IOW - I wonder if the nurse had patients who had NO regrets (or, then again, too few to mention, heh, heh). Perhaps it's just the human condition to reflect on life and have regrets. Face it, the most fulfilled person in the world has probably NOT fulfilled ALL his/her dreams. Certainly NO person has ever lived up to their full potential. So, regrets may be more normal than not. Not to excuse "regrets" - they can be instructive to those of us with some time left. Still, I wonder if we wouldn't regret something else. (Maybe there is one guy out there who was such a great dad, husband, volunteer, friend, etc. etc. that he DOES regret not working more.) YMMV
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Old 02-25-2012, 09:11 AM   #12
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This list doesn't do much for me. I'd much prefer a list of those top five items that provided the greatest satisfaction, gratification, bliss, happiness, contentment, etc.
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Old 02-25-2012, 09:14 AM   #13
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This list doesn't do much for me. I'd much prefer a list of those top five items that provided the greatest satisfaction, gratification, bliss, happiness, contentment, etc.
Here ya go:

1. I lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I didn't work too hard.
3. I had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I let myself be happy.
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Old 02-25-2012, 09:27 AM   #14
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I don't believe that would be the list produced.
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Old 02-25-2012, 09:34 AM   #15
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Here ya go:

1. I lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I didn't work too hard.
3. I had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I let myself be happy.
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Old 02-25-2012, 09:35 AM   #16
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This list doesn't do much for me. I'd much prefer a list of those top five items that provided the greatest satisfaction, gratification, bliss, happiness, contentment, etc.
Not sure I follow, what for example comes to your mind?
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Old 02-25-2012, 09:57 AM   #17
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Here ya go:

1. I lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I didn't work too hard.
3. I had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I let myself be happy.
What a great list. You must have worked a long whole to put it together. if there were room for one more, I would add something like
6. I spent enough time on Internet forums
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Old 02-25-2012, 10:19 AM   #18
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What a great list. You must have worked a long whole to put it together.
Yep. Almost died compiling it...
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Old 02-25-2012, 10:35 AM   #19
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Yep. Almost died compiling it...
Would that be something to regret or celebrate?
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Old 02-25-2012, 10:38 AM   #20
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Would that be something to regret or celebrate?
I'll ask DW and get back to you.
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