There's an article that has made its way around the internet: Top five regrets of the dying, as conveyed from Australian palliative nurse Bronnie Ware in the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
I've generally lived my life without regrets. But I want to analyze these specific five items.
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 common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."My parents put no pressure on me to study a certain major in college, or to pursue a certain career. Becoming a lawyer was entirely my choice. The career decisions I made were also entirely mine. The path I took wasn't always easy, but I had great mentors and a little bit of luck. At PwC and Google, some days were difficult, but I really enjoy(ed) my work, and I have always been very proud of my career.
I wasn't "out" at work the first few years. When I started working at Google in 2009, I was "out", and it made me much more comfortable at work. That wasn't always easy for me, but I never had any negative reactions to my personal life. I know many people are unable to have that luxury, so I definitely feel I'm lucky.
I think later in my life I will look back and feel that I lived a life true to myself. I certainly feel that way now.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."I spent the first nine years of my career in the Big-4 accounting firms. And then I worked at Google as an in-house lawyer. I worked long hours, including weekends, and one 24 hour period that will stay in my mind the rest of my life. But in general, I've had good luck with my work-life balance. In public accounting, I would work from home once a month or so, and use the work gym during the day. The partners I worked for were generally supportive of a good work-life balance. I won't divulge my work-life balance situation at Google, but I feel very satisfied with the balance. Assuming things continue for the rest of my career as they've been for the past 13 years, I don't think I'll have regrets about work-life balance.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."I predict this will be my biggest regret later in life. My fear of rejection often causes me to not express my feelings, or causes me to do things that I might not otherwise do.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."With the proliferation of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc., I feel I adequately stay in touch with people. I don't think this will be a regret of mine later in life.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
... need to think about this.