I’ve recently came across Bronnie Ware’s article “Regrets of the dying” which is a sobering yet inspiring read and an essential reminder that time is our most precious asset.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse and counsellor who worked in palliative care, taking care of terminally ill people, most of whom had less than 12 weeks to live. Her patients were typically old people with very serious illnesses, waiting to die to whom Bronnie was providing counselling and relief from the physical and mental stresses that come naturally when a human being comes face to face with their mortality.
Death is not a comfortable subject. We prefer not to think or talk about it, but the reality is that we will all die someday, and the ‘future’ is never guaranteed.
As the reality of death neared, Bronnie’s patients experienced a range of emotions that usually started with denial, followed by fear, anger, remorse, more denial, and eventually, acceptance. The most comforting thing is that Bronnie states that every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
As part of therapy, patients were asked about any regrets they had about their lives, and anything they would do differently if life gave them a second chance.
Of all the responses she got from her patients, 5 regrets stood out and whilst reading them I realised that our work with our clients will make a real difference for them.
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
According to Bronnie’s study, this was by far the most common regret of all. Unfulfilled dreams and aspirations – due to a need to comply to external expectations – haunted the memories in her patients’ dying days.
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
According to Bronnie, this regret came from every male patient she nursed. And a few female patients too. As breadwinners, their lives were taken over by work, making a living, and pursuing a career. While this role is important, these patients regretted that they allowed work to take over their lives causing them to spend less time with their loved ones. Regrets were usually about missing out on the lives of their children and the companionship of their spouse.
When asked what they would do differently if given a second chance, the response was quite surprising. Most of them believed that ‘by simplifying our lifestyle and making better choices, we may not need all that money we’re chasing’. That way, we can create more space in our lives for happiness and spend more time with the people who mean the most to us.
I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
According to Bronnie, many of her dying patients believed they suppressed their true feelings and didn’t speak their mind when they should have, because they wanted to keep peace with others. Most of them chose not to confront difficult situations and people, even when it offended them.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
Bronnie found that her patients missed their old friends and regretted they didn’t give those friendships the investment of time and effort they deserve.
“Everyone misses their friends when they’re dying.”
It appears that when health and youth have faded, and death is looming, people realise that some friendships hold more value than all their wealth and achievements.
According to Bronnie, it all comes down to love and relationships in the end. Nothing else mattered to her patients in the last few weeks of their lives but love and relationships.
I wish I had let myself be happier
Happiness IS a choice and many of Bronnie’s patients hadn’t realised it until the end of their lives. Happiness isn’t acquired through wealth, social acceptance and the trappings of life. Throughout our active lives, we often focus too much on acquiring the things we would like to have – wealth, status, power and achievement, somehow hoping that those are the keys to our happiness to realise that they forced us to dedicate less time to what should have mattered most.
Can we achieve a life with less regrets?
I believe so, but as life is not a rehearsal, so it requires a plan. Whilst we never are in full control of all elements, we can choose to promote happiness in our life.
How can Financial Planning help?
Most people who talk to bdb for the first time, know little about what a different approach to traditional financial services financial planning is. Financial planning is a process of finding the right balance between living for today and living for the future. Many people live beyond their means, living for today, focusing too much on the here and now. Others, focus too hard on the future, and risk missing out on enjoying the moment, when sometimes they already have enough. To focus solely on money and financial management without the context of your life, can lead you in the wrong direction. It is far more beneficial to approach your finances through the lens of your needs and aspirations. In the end, as per Bronnie’s study demonstrates, true success isn't measured in a bank balance or accumulation of material possessions, it is measured in time, experiences, and relationships.
A good financial plan is as unique as you are, naturally a bespoke approach is required. Our experienced team of chartered and certified planners are ready to bring the power of life changing financial planning to you and your family and discover what true success means to you.
I am grateful and fortunate to hear our clients’ life changing experiences on a daily basis as part of my job. I invite you to discover Lorraine’s, Neil and Alison’s, Peter’s and Scott and Jo’s success stories or get in touch to start your life of chosen happiness.