4 min read

Shift Your Perspective Before it's Too Late: Learning from Deathbed Regrets

Considering our future deathbed regrets provides powerful guidance for life decisions. Yes, we all have different priorities and different goals. We all live busy lives with different trajectories. But surprisingly, deathbed regrets reveal shared priorities across vastly different humans. From unfilled dreams to getting lost on the work hamster wheel, we summarise the common ground and common learnings amongst these deathbed answers.


‘The Top 5 Life Regrets of the Dying’ picks up on these common themes; offering real life insight from palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware’s conversations with different people across her career. We offer a brief summary to help you absorb this wisdom, rethink your life choices and inspire positive change this New Year- all in a quick coffee break read.

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

Top spot goes to unfulfilled dreams and lives of work to meet someone else’s expectations. The regret here as Bronnie explains, isn’t about a lack of money, or ability or being unrealistic. It’s about the choices these people made which steered them away from their important goals. Whether it was passively letting time slip away, or prioritising other things not important to them, this life regret reminds us to pick up the reins in steering our own lives. Taking action, starting now and not letting self doubt hinder our life dreams…. And all that good stuff.

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard

A common one amongst the breadwinners of families, this one was all about wishing they hadn’t been blindsided by the hamster wheel grind. Providing is important, fulfilling and necessary. But not making time to enjoy their children as children, or their pattern’s companionship was another key regret by many on their deathbed.

This one reminds us to work to live, not the other way around. Even if that means losing the flashy car or the designer suits, at the end of the day sacrificing those things won’t haunt us like lost time with family will. Strip it back and remind yourself what’s really important.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Whilst we’re hopefully moving away from this one with newer generations, it stands as an important reminder to champion this movement. Being vulnerable, releasing resentment and living an enriched life with all the feelings was something many regretted not doing. Highlighting yet another reminder to not hold back the fullest version of ourselves.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Next was people. Bronnie noted that being at the end often encouraged reflections on the people from our past, who played important roles in shaping our most memorable times in life. Deep regrets about not making the time and effort to keep these life-enhancing people around was another common theme amongst the dying people she cared for.

This one reminds us that at the end of life, love and relationships are all anyone has left. Realising you’ve abandoned your most important ones is a hard pill we want to avoid swallowing. At our core, connections are of utmost human importance, and the good ones are not worth losing to other superficial priorities. A good reminder to not lose sight of this.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This one’s surprising, but noted by Bronnie as an important reminder that happiness is a choice. Many reported wishing they hadn’t forgotten this amid reflecting on their habits of complaining and taking life so seriously.

This one’s an important reminder to soak it all up. From the sunshine, the people and the little pockets of joy which make your heart feel full and your face sore from smiling. Not taking these things for granted is key to avoiding this life regret.

To Wrap It Up

This year, forget the bucket list frills and resolution pedantics, and get real with what’s important to you. With what you’ll look back on and regret if you continue on the same path. Re-shift your focus onto the changes, the people and the time usage you’ll instead feel grateful for on your eventual deathbed. Using these end of life regrets as the ultimate motivation to avoid living these same common mistakes.

Do something for future you today

Take action on living as your best self, and get organised in prioritising what’s important to you and what's going to protect your family after you're gone. Through planning your estate, writing your will and prepaying your funeral, Safewill can help today. Give us a call on

Last updated 29th December 2022
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Hannah Comiskey
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