What will you regret at the end of your life?

I was taken with an article recently that linked back to Bronnie Ware’s blog post (and eventual book) about the top five regrets of the dying. For those who don’t know, Bronnie worked for many years in palliative care, with patients who had gone home to die, usually within 3-12 weeks. From her comments:

“ People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.’

‘When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.”

She then goes on to list the top five regrets of the dying:

  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 hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I looked back at these and thought about what I could do to reduce/eliminate these regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me: While I have enjoyed (for the most part) the work that I’ve done and the life we have built, I have always wanted to do two things: Travel and research/embrace history and remodel houses (at least one house). While we had the chance to travel a lot when I was in Europe with the Army, we haven’t been able to travel anywhere near as much as I’d like. Current plans
    1. With Covid ending, the plan is to do at least one major trip a year, and other side trips, to national parks, historical sites, etc. While I may not be able to visit everything, I’ll visit a lot
    2. I’ve saved up a significant chunk of $ that I could use to fund the purchase and remodel of a home. When I decide to retire early, this will be one of my post-FIRE projects. Looking forward to it.
    3. Continue to work on my “side hustle” (TKD Woodworking) that I can enjoy once I retire
  1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard: Not sure this is a major regret of mine. While I have worked hard, moved up the ladder, and been successful, Mrs. 39 Months has pretty much ensured that I didn’t become completely wrapped up with work at the expense of our lives together. The work has enabled us to build a tidy nest egg while still enjoying life, and now we are in a position of financial independence.
  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings: OK, this is a regret, somewhat. While I’ve never had a problem expressing affection and love to Mrs. 39 Months (lots of hugs & kisses) and telling my family I love them – I have issues in expressing my opinions in situations at work and with others. I’m a middle child, and apparently we typically try to be the peacemakers in the family. I’ll subsume my opinions and feelings for the group in order to make it peaceful. One of the results of this is an explosive temper at times, which is a real issue. Current plans:
    1. Need to start daily meditations to deal with anger
    2. Need to speak up more when I have issues with friends & family – in a polite way
  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends: Big problem with me. I typically don’t form close bonds with others, and usually once someone drops off, I don’t seek them out. I have one (only one) friend from high school/growing up, and we talk maybe once/quarter (if that). No college or military friends (which is odd, if you think about it), and only 2 real friends now. No work friends. As you get older, it gets harder and harder to build friendships. Current Plans:
    1. Increase frequency/number of phone calls to friends
    2. Try to schedule times to get together with local friends
    3. Make concerted effort to add to friends in current list of hobbies/professional organizations
    4. Attend college reunions, when possible, in order to try to reconnect with friends
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier: Not sure about this one. I believe I’m fairly happy, for the most part. Part of that is my embrace of Stoicism, as I am getting less interested in things I cannot control. Stopping to look at the news and politics has helped this a lot. Current plans:
    • Continue to practice Stoicism and enjoy what I can control
    • Keep away from areas that just “wind me up” (politics, social media, etc.) with no real impact on my life
    • Pursue areas that will make me happier (see #1 and #3 above)

So what are you doing in life to reduce potential future regrets?

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Mr. 39 Months

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