One of our colleagues, James, retired recently. At his farewell lunch, Vivien, another colleague, asked him whether he had any regrets and whether he would have done things differently.

Regrets are an unpleasant part of life. They can cause feelings of guilt, grief, and shame, which can be difficult to overcome. It is easy for a person to get caught up with regrets, but it is important to know that this does not have to be the case. There are ways to avoid regrets and live a more fulfilled life.

Vivien mentioned that she read Bronnie Ware’s book “The Five Regrets of the Dying”. In the book, the author noted that when she asked her patients whether they had any regrets and what they would do differently, she heard the same five themes over and over again.

The Five Regrets

Let’s look at the five regrets reported by Bronnie Ware and how you may avoid them:

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 commonly expressed regret. When people realize their lives are almost over and they reflect on them, it is easy to see that many of their dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have not even fulfilled half of their dreams. Having to die knowing that it was because of choices they made or not made is disheartening.

It is important that you fulfill some of your dreams along the way. As with most people, it is already too late the moment you lose your health. Few people recognize the true value of health until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

Many men who worked all their lives expressed this regret. They yearned for their children’s youth and their partner’s company. Many women expressed this regret as well even though many of them had not been breadwinners. Most of the men genuinely regretted spending so much of their life on a work treadmill.

It is feasible to avoid the need for the money you believe you require if you simplify your lifestyle and make mindful choices along the way. And by making more room in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities that are better suited to your new way of living.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppress their emotions in order to maintain harmony with others. They settle for a mediocre existence and never realize their own potential. As a result, they become unwell as a result of the bitterness and resentment they carry.

Regrets Old man dancing
Express your feelings

You have no influence over how people react. However, while people may respond negatively initially when you modify your behavior by expressing your feelings and speaking honestly, it raises your relationship with them to a healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. You win, either way.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often, people will not fully appreciate the benefits of old acquaintances until their final weeks, and it is not always possible to locate them. Many people have become so preoccupied with their own lives that they allow golden connections to fade over time. There are many regrets about not devoting enough time and effort to friendships. When a good friend is dying, everyone misses them.

It is usual for you if you lead a hectic life to let friendships slip. However, when faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fade away. If at all feasible, you want to have your financial affairs in order. But it is not money or status that is most important to you. You want to get things in order for the sake of those people you care about. And it is likely that you are too sick and tired to complete this task. In the end, it all boils down to love and relationships. Love and relationships are all that are left in the closing weeks.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is an incredibly common regret. Many people do not know that happiness is a choice until the very end. They are stuck in old patterns and habits. The ‘comfort’ of familiarity permeates their emotions as well as their physical lives. Because they are afraid of change, they pretend to others and to themselves that they are happy and content. When deep within, they long to laugh properly and have fun back in their lives.

When you’re dying, what other people think of you is far from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again before you die. Life is a choice. It’s your life, after all. So, choose carefully, wisely, and honestly.

How to avoid those regrets

Regrets may be a great load to bear, weighing you down and preventing you from living your best lives. However, there are methods to avoid regrets and live a more fulfilling life. Let’s look at several tactics that you can use to avoid these regrets and live a life truly worth living.

To begin, it is important to recognize that regrets are a normal part of the human experience. You make mistakes and have regrets about things you could have done better. But it’s important to remember that regrets are a sort of self-punishment and serve no beneficial function. The key is to learn from your mistakes and apply what you’ve learned to make better decisions in the future.

Happy girl dancing no regrets
Smile and be happy

Living in the present moment is one approach to avoiding regrets. Many of our regrets arise from our tendency to focus on the past or worry about the future. However, the only time that we genuinely have influence over is the present. We make the most of our time and possibilities by focusing on the present.

Setting clear goals and working toward them is another strategy to avoid regrets. It is simpler to make decisions that match our beliefs and priorities when we have a strong sense of purpose and direction. Setting objectives also provides us with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, which can help to mitigate feelings of regret.

It is also important to have healthy relationships with other people. Strong relationships with loved ones can provide support and a sense of belonging, which can help to mitigate your feelings. When things go wrong, having a supportive network of people who can offer advice and perspective can be beneficial.

To summarize, there is no definitive way you can avoid regrets as regrets are part and parcel of your human experience.

Conclusion

Regrets are a natural part of life. Do not let this emotional burden control you and you will improve your well-being.

If you are mindful and able to set goals, foster healthy relationships with others, learn from mistakes, and be honest with yourself, you can avoid many regrets and live a more fulfilling life.


References

  • Jensen, E. “How to Live While You’re Alive.” Adapted with permission.
  • Ware, B. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Hay House Inc, 2019.