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What the top five regrets of the dying can teach us about living

Have you ever heard of reverse engineering–the concept of taking something apart to learn how it’s made? These top five regrets represent the reverse engineering of building a meaningful life. As you read these ask yourself, “Is the path I’m on now going to fulfill these wishes?” If not, then commit to making any necessary changes you identify. Your future self will thank you for it! We’ve included affirmation statements to help get you started.

Regret #1: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Are you living an authentic life? Do you know yourself well enough to even answer that question? When we spend our lives trying to meet the expectations of others, working hard to earn their love or respect, we risk never actualizing ourselves and our full potential. At the end of life, the biggest regret people have is not being true to themselves. They wish they had been more courageous in being who they wanted to be and in doing what they wanted to do.

Affirmation #1: “I live my life knowing who I am and being true to myself.” 

Regret #2: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

How much of your life is spent at work? How much of your work-life choices are based in fear or meeting the expectations of others or society? How much do you really have to work to sustain a healthy life? It’s important to consider that in the end, most people regret spending so much of their life on the treadmill of a work existence. They wish they had spent more time being with and enjoying the most important people in their lives.

Affirmation #2: “I am a human being, doing work that supports me and fulfills all my life.

Regret #3: “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

Do you suppress your feelings to keep peace with others? Have you settled for a mediocre existence while knowing you are capable of becoming so much more? Many illnesses can be traced to feelings of bitterness and resentment—hardening our heart is not just a metaphor. In the end, most regret bottling up their feelings and wish they had fully expressed themselves and their emotions.

Affirmation #3: “I express my full range of emotions and feel my feelings.

Regret #4: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

Have you become so caught up in your own life that your friendships have slipped away over the years? Have you been waiting for others to deepen the friendship or to show you they care? In the end, people deeply regret not having lifelong friendships. They wished they had given them their time and effort.

Affirmation #4: “I devote time to developing lifelong friendships that support my well-being.

Regret #5: “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

Do you have a habit of constantly finding what’s not to like about your current experience? Are you thinking something must be different for you to be happy? In the end, it becomes clear to people that happiness is a choice. If they chose instead to stay comfortable in old patterns and habits, these comfort zones of familiarity overflow into their emotions as well as their physical lives. They wish they had laughed more often and had more silliness in their lives.

Affirmation #5“I choose to be happy, laugh, and be silly!” 

Some concepts from: Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing by Bronnie Ware

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