The 5 Biggest Regrets

Some of the most important conversations we have with clients revolve not around numbers or performance but rather “life beyond investment returns.” These are the big picture conversations that help bring organization and purpose around what is important in our clients’ lives.

At Charter Oak, we strive to help clients and their loved ones make informed financial and life decisions for themselves, their families and their legacies for the future.

Below is an abbreviated version of an article written by John-Paul Iwouha on a study originated by Bronnie Ware, who worked in palliative care mostly with patients who had less than 12 weeks to live. Here is what she learned.


The 5 Biggest Regrets


Do you have any regrets?  Most people do.

For many years Bronnie Ware– an Australian nurse and counselor – worked with individuals providing counseling and relief from the physical and mental stresses that come naturally when a human being comes face-to-face with their mortality.

Bronnie noted that her patients experienced a range of emotions that usually started with denial, then fear, anger, remorse, more denial, and eventually, acceptance.

As part of therapy, Bronnie would ask 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, she noticed there were 5 regrets that stood out.

1) I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me.

According to Bronnie, this was by far the most common regret of all.

When people realize their life is coming to an end, it becomes easier to look back and see all those dreams they had but didn’t have the courage to pursue.

It appears that our unfulfilled dreams and aspirations have a way of silently stalking us, and eventually haunt our memories in our dying days.

2) I wish I didn’t work so hard.

According to Bronnie, this regret came from every patient who was the breadwinner in their family.

As breadwinners, their lives were taken over by work, making a living, and pursuing a career. While this role was important, these patients regretted allowing work to take over their lives and spending less time with their loved ones.

These 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.

3) I wish I had the courage to express my feelings and speak my mind.

Most of them chose not to confront difficult situations and people, even when it offended them. By suppressing their anger, they built up a lot of bitterness and resentment which ultimately affected their health because they wanted to keep peace with others.

To avoid this type of regret later in life, it’s important to understand that honesty and confrontation are a necessary part of healthy relationships. There is a common misconception that confrontation is bad for relationships and can only create division.

Not all the time.

In reality, when confrontation is kind, honest and constructive, it helps to deepen mutual respect and understanding and can take the relationship to a healthier level.

4) 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 deserved.

Everyone misses their friends when they’re dying.

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.

We live in a busy world these days. And the pressures and demands of work, life and trying to raise a family can take its toll on some golden relationships.

5) I wish I had let myself be happier.

This is a very humbling one, really.

Many of her patients didn’t realize until the end of their lives that happiness is a choice.

They wished they had known that happiness isn’t something to be chased and acquired through wealth, social acceptance and the trappings of life.

When asked what they could have done differently, here’s the key message those dying folks shared: Learn to relax and appreciate the good things in your life. That’s the only way to find real happiness.

Happiness is a choice.

Is it possible to live a life without regrets?

This is the big question.

As no human being is perfect, and I doubt there’s anything like a “perfect life”, I expect all of us would have some regret(s) in our dying days.

But I think the key is to have as few regrets as possible.

By living our lives as if the end is nigh, we would realize that we really don’t have all the time in the world.

Also, to live a life of few regrets, we have to focus on and accommodate ONLY those things and people that make us happy. Because if we try to conform to the expectations of others and hide our true feelings, the regrets could haunt us later in life.

If you’re reading this article; you still have a choice.

Please feel free to share this article with people you care about. You may just save someone a ton of regrets.

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