5 Questions to prevent regrets

May 28th, 2014

Did you ever talk to someone who is old enough to look back at their life reviewing it as a whole? If you are like me you probably enjoy reading books such as The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of a window and disseapeared ;)

In any case, I was lucky enough to live close to three old women who lived beyond their nineties; and for this reason I was able to notice how different these “life recaps” might get. As a child I liked to believe that with age we not only gain experience but also wisdom and happiness…

Recently, I heard about Mrs. Bronnie Ware who took care of dying patients and wrote a book about her experience. In The Top Five Regrets of the Dying she shares her insights on living a life free of regrets. So, what is it that people tend to regret the most when their time is up?

  • Didn’t have the courage to live a life true to themselves, instead of what others expected of them.
  • Worked so hard that they missed out on key family moments.
  • Didn’t express their true feelings, just to “keep the peace.”
  • Didn’t stay in touch with friends.
  • Didn’t let themselves be happier by choosing to be happy.

It all boils down to three simple things – authenticity, connection and attitude. Please notice noone regrets not working longer or harder :) Does it surprise you?

The list inspired me to go talk to my old auntie again. You may remember she is 94 and when asked about potential regrets she reflected for a while and then she said she doesn’t feel that she had any regrets at all. Mind you she survived very difficult circumstances during WWII and once again I admired the integrity with which she has been living and I thought it makes a lot of sense to ask the following questions of myself every now and then:

  1. Do I have the courage to live a life true to myself?
  2. Do I create the time for my family?
  3. Do I express my feelings?
  4. Do I stay in touch with friends?
  5. Do I choose to be happy?

I would love to always be able to say yes to all of them, unfortunately, my life is not perfect; I often don’t go see my friends or family because of work and I sometimes choose not to share what I truly feel, because I want to avoid judgement… But I am quite confident we all wish to be dying without any regrets one day.

What can we do now to prevent regretting something when it might be too late?

How about you? Which areas do you tend to overlook or sacrifice? What for?

And what is your personal tip to make sure you won’t regret when you approach the finish line?




29.5.2014 16:20

This is great blog. Thank you for that. It immediately triggered self reflection: …. I think I don't regret what I did/didn't do in the past (see implicit doubt in the sentence :-). I cannot regret even, because what I did or I didn't is a history, unchangeable, done, fixed, permanent. So, I'm asking myself now: why should I regret something what I cannot change? Because the history could have been better? Probably not, because it could have been much worse. Because I have a feeling that the history outlines my future? May be. Because I didn't tell my family and my friends how great they are? Certainly Yes……..If this is the case - nothing is lost! I can still be with the family, express my feelings, live my way, stay in touch with my friends and tell them how great they are NOW. And if I don't manage to do it all now, I can make the same reflection tomorrow, and start "now". The hundred-year-old man decided to jump out of the window now too :-)
Thank you, Jani, for your blog(s), again. It greatly motivates and energizes.

29.5.2014 19:55

Thanks for your comments, Jirko, glad you find some motivating energy in here ;-)
Fully agree, nothing is lost and to some degree we start all over again every day. It just turns out that when the last day comes people tend to regret similar things. Though it's no rocket science for many of us (incl. myself) it takes far too long to understand just how important those 5 simple things are for our sense of life fulfillment...
Climbing out of a window, anyone? :D