The Top 5 Regrets of People on Their Deathbed

A fictional representation of someone on their death bed surrounded by people
An artistic depiction of a man on his deathbed.

Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” People think a lot about taxes. Knowing that tax season is around the corner may inspire us to work more or spend less. And if we qualify for a generous tax return, it may have the exact opposite effect. It goes without saying that taxes have an effect on the emotions and lifestyle of almost every adult American. It is generally true that what we expect to happen tomorrow influences our behavior today. Since death is a certainty, and not merely an expectation, how should knowledge of death impact the way we live today? A lot of times we postpone this uncomfortable question until the very last minute. People on their deathbed, however, don’t have that luxury.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years in palliative care (care for terminally ill patients). She regularly got to converse with people on the brink of death, and what she learned from those conversations is as fascinating as it is thought-provoking. Ware’s experience inspired her to author The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.

The top 5 regrets she discovered are: 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 didn’t work so hard; 3) I wish I had the courage to express my feelings; 4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends; 5) I wish I had let myself be happy.

I’ve transcribed a YouTube clip in which a famous vlogger and psychologist, Ralph Smart, succinctly outlines each regret.


Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed. This is a new series. Well, we’re going to talk about the greatest, most inspirational, life-changing articles and stories on the whole internet before we’ve had breakfast. . . This one really caught my eye. This actually went viral a while ago, and a nurse–Bronnie Ware–who was working in palliative care, looking after the elderly. She noted down that they shared similar regrets, things they wish they could have done. So I’m here to tell you you have got an opportunity right now.

The first wish was I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Now this really hit home for me because let’s face it. A lot of us we get caught up in a massive spider web of trying to live up to expectations from family and friends. You know they’re not your friends right? You’ve got to have the courage to really stay true to yourself. You’re entire life–can you do it? Because if you don’t that’s probably going to be your biggest regret ever.

The second wish she noticed was I wish I didn’t work so hard. Well, that’s why we’re nature, baby, right? Because a lot of us–let’s face it–if you are working solely for money and you’re not getting any joy of it, you really got to start scratching your head to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Because many of them said that their health was far more important than their earnings. And a lot of us we just don’t do that. We’re going to break our back just for a check and then use the check to pay for our back. We’re real smart.

And the third wish was I wish I had the courage to express my feelings. She saw how so many elderly people regretted suppressing emotions. Because a lot of us we do that, we suppress our emotions. We suppress our emotions–things we want to say. Sometimes you want to say yes. Say yes. Sometimes you want to say no. Say no. But don’t say no if you want to say yes, and yes if you want to say no. That can be a little rap right there. “Express yourself”–that will be the next song I release.

Number four was I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Now I will admit it I’m bad sometimes at keeping in contact, but this one, once again, hit home because I took out my phone and I started to call people. If you got a call from me, that’s the reason why. Thank me later. So take out your address book, probably go on page 88–that number, yeah it looks foreign right now–call that friend because you need to call them right now.

And the fifth regret was I wish that I had let myself be happy. . . A lot of us we deny ourselves of happiness. We deny ourselves to have a moment of clarity where we can move toward what most moves us.

I’m learning from that list, and that’s why it’s so inspirational, so once again there you have it. Have a beautiful day.

One comment

  1. […] Research has demonstrated that when we visualize the same part of our brain gets activated as when we experience something in the material world. The goal of the exercise that follows is to obtain the psychological benefits of a near-death experience minus the trauma. It is structured as a prompt followed by a series of 10 reflective questions. For more on the power of perspective, see the Top 5 Regrets of People on Their Deathbed. […]

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