A nonscientific compilation by a palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, who cared for dying people.  These were the top 5 regrets expressed by her dying patients.  Ware has written a book regarding her experiences. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearl...


  • "I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier."
"Show and tell" here...  Damn.... I already wish I don't have to work so hard, and wish I would let myself be happier.  How does one do that?   I already ask if it's too late.  I've gotten into too much trouble for expressing myself, so not sure what to do with that one.  We have to get by in our work-life and community, and sometimes that means holding back. I've had to compartmentalize.  There have been times when there was no one to depend on except me, and I knew if I didn't work very hard, I would not get by.  So I did.  And do.  As for the friends...  too many died back then.  And I changed, a lot.  Can't keep in touch with those.
One thing that was especially moving, "All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."  Damn, that's me.
So how to change that?  I don't know.   You?  Same regrets?  Not?  This is our one life.

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More courage to express feelings and not working as hard. I don't have any friends I'd want to stay in touch with - all the theist friends I lost - but I've moved on.

Wow... I'm kinda impressed that I'm not even 30 yet and already kinda got it figured out. May because I have some close brush with death?

I try to live my life as if I could die at any time. Last thing I want to do is lay in my deathbed and think "oh man I wish I would have done this and that" 
But at the same time... It is hard because people just don't seems to understand. For example, they don't understand why I am living with roommates when I can live in my own place, they don't understand why I choose to drive a cherokee that chugs gas when I can get cars with better mpeg, etc... They don't understand why I rarely sit at home and rest on the weekend, etc...

I just have met too many people who sit around and wish they'd have done something better with their life than working and coming home to zone out in front of the tv everyday.  

Wow…interesting post…..regrets!!!……for some time now I have been re-evaluating, stripping away the construct of my mind and how I arrived at the present……..who am I stuff?

I don’t know if the following will be interesting and I sincerely apologise now for maybe hijacking this post a bit...........but for me I think the post is connected to be bigger question….......….how to live your life and what meaning it has to the individual.

I am now in my forties.....yes, the seemingly terrible mid-life crisis part of my life. However, even back at school I could see a certain clarity of what life is…....sorry for not sounding modest or humble…...you know the, ”what’s it all about question”, this question has haunted me my whole life!!

Some basic facts about me:
I have never wanted my own children.
I am not academic but consider myself to have reasonable EQ.
I have never enjoyed work, but in parts of my life have worked quite hard.
I have never believed or followed or been asked to follow any religion or alternative life construct and couldn’t away, as it’s all bollocks!

I don’t see any real purpose to my life, other than breathing!!!
My wife and I are going through a process of simplifying out lives in possessions and reducing our need to earn as much to release us form the burden of working.
It already feels as though I have lived life and seen what it has to offer, I have been privileged to born into this time and sampled life.

When I distil everything down…..I always end up at the seemingly nihilist default position……..do others?.......and yet something deep down pushes me on……to be so attached to life??

I shall end here as reading this back it sounds slightly depressing, and yet my friends say I am ‘Mr. Positive’……..’Mr. Life and soul’, so back to your question, regrets……..I keep coming back to the following line, “don’t end up living a full life but an empty one”…..so my search continues for that purpose I crave!!!


Sentient Biped, you mentioned

I've gotten into too much trouble for expressing myself, so not sure what to do with that one.  We have to get by in our work-life and community, and sometimes that means holding back. I've had to compartmentalize.

Isn't that why you enjoy Atheist Nexus? Here you don't have to hold back, but can express your true self. While our virtual niche is inherently compartmentalized, there's a sense in which it permits wholeness not available in religiously dominated work/community. I like the way we can connect with similar minded people planet wide.

Ruth, Yes you are right.  That is why I am on Nexus.  And also, I hope, to find kindred spirits, to make a difference, to find and give meaning, and to learn. 

Yes the Nexus is a good place for us to be. We can express ourselves freely here. We are surrounded by like minds.

Regrets?  That's a tough one, since I plan on being here for at least a few more years. But, of course, that could all change tomorrow at the hands of an inattentive driver.

True to myself? I suppose I have been more than some and not quite as much as others. Have I alienated people because of it? Yes. Have I compromised, and later regretted it? Yes. However, I've come to the realization that my feet are made of the same clay as others I know.

I'll grant that work can oftentimes be a royal pain in the ass. However, I'm fortunate to have carved out a small niche in my are where a fair percentage of my practice is to represent children in Court. There is a great deal of satisfaction in doing that (especially when I get to justifiably beat up on grown ups and state agencies who act out of line).

I've been referred to as an opinionated loud mouth on more than one occasion, especially when I piss off the comfortable majority :) No real regrets there.

Staying in touch has to be my Achilles Heel, especially with family. 

Happier? Not really sure of the true meaning of that one. A good meal. Mutually satisfying intimacy. Good conversation and laughter with friends. Traveling to new, interesting, and exciting places. Looking in the mirror without regrets (I never met anyone who could do that 100%, and doubt that I ever will). I guess my personal interpretation would be the state of being more satisfied with myself than not. I suppose so, knowing there is always room for improvement and the acceptance of constructive criticism.

I do know I'll go to my grave with one regret. I've always been fascinated with the idea of travelling in space. Even for one quick orbit. I realize this comes under the heading of "bucket list" rather than introspection; the latter being the intent of this post. 

Many years ago I read of an anthropologist who'd found two regrets left by an ancient Egyptian.

"Alas," he'd translated the hieroglyphs to say, "no more sex and no more beer."

For myself, I have often wondered what my life would have been like...

1. If my parents' German culture had not told them, "If you say more than five words, you're not working." (They would have been able to tell me who they were.)

2. If my dad's mother had not beaten him. (He would have raised his kids non-violently and I wouldn't have hated him.)

3. If he hadn't sent his kids to Catholic schools. (I would have had only one layer of authoritarianism to get rid of.)

Hm-mm, if all that hadn't happened, I might not have lived in San Francisco for 20 years. Now that's a dismal thought.

"no more sex and no more beer."


Hah, I like that. The really important things in life. Sorry about all that other stuff though. I learned to hate my dad really quickly too, and he also forced me to go to a private jewish school on top of that, but thankfully that stuff never took!

I like that too.  I don't drink beer, so I'll have to change it to "no more sex and no more Tabasco."

Life is hard to get a handle on. I was just thinking today how lucky I am to have the kids that I have, and that I should perhaps feel just as lucky that there appears to be more on the way, despite feeling pretty overwhelmed with the duties of child-rearing and worried that now it will be too much for me to take. I didn't want or plan on having any of them, they were all surprises/accidents but I feel incredibly lucky for the twists they have brought in my fate. Sometimes you never know what you want until you have it, or what you don't want until you get it. But my life has been very full so far and I've learned a lot, and hopefully I'll be around for a long while still to put that knowledge to some better use!


I haven't had (so far) a real problem with any of these five regrets. I have never really had the problem of not living true to myself. I have struggled as most people I presume have in figuring out what I really want and who I really am in some ways, but there is a basic core there that is uncompromising. I know what I want and I can be extremely stubborn about getting it. I certainly can't accuse myself of working too hard! I did hurt my health by working too hard in some short periods of my life, but I've hardly worked myself to the bone, in fact I wish I had more opportunities for work. I'm usually very good at expressing my feelings, perhaps have done so too often. There have been a few times that I couldn't find the right words at the time I really wanted to, but I suppose that happens to everyone, and because those moments eat me up and I dwell on them so much, I don't let those happen very often, and I've gotten very good at knowing what to say when people cross my lines. I am like Steph about not having too many friends that I would have wanted to stay in touch with anyways, but I have kept my lines of communication pretty open, excepting for those people who I have deliberately tried to cut out of my life (with varying success). And I haven't had the hardest time with letting myself be happy, I would say that I have almost certainly allowed myself to be too happy for too long, and that I should probably grow up some more. I like to have fun, I have learned how to have fun a little too well perhaps, but I think (and I guess that's why this is a big regret for so many people) it is important to stay in touch with your inner child, to remember how to feel joy in living and to let yourself get carried away from time to time, with laughter and love and even taking on big challenges and pushing yourself to be better. No, I don't yet have these kinds of regrets. My regrets are mainly the stuff I couldn't have changed anyway, the mistakes one makes just in being alive, not being better at life, and so on. Not that I wouldn't have done so much different if I could go back and do it all over again, but I don't obsess about those things as regrets so much, because they are things where I realize I just couldn't have known better. I just obsess about them in, I don't know, a weird sort of way. Like a fantasy or something. Yeah maybe that's a good way of explaining it, I fantasize about living a different life, but I don't kick myself too much (I hope) for having been alive and having lived a less-than ideal life, especially when there are so many people out there who have had it way worse than I ever did.

I regret not being a more serious student in the past. I also regret being too much of a coward to actually start dating anyone. 

But then again sometimes I wonder if regrets are inevitable towards the end of ones life. No one person can experience everything and we are all animals with imperfect minds and motivations. I personally think I am too obsessive to ever really die with out any regrets. I can see it now: "Wait I'm not ready yet! I never became a poet! I have yet to learn Kung fu! How do you get to the center of a Tootsie pop? I...forgot...to water...the house...plant...*urk*!"


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