Palliative Nurse Shares The Number 1 Regret Of The Dying & Here’s How To Avoid It.

hospital bed

Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware has captured hundreds of regrets from terminally ill patients.

They are the great common denominator — no matter race, color, creed — they’re the one thing we universally try to avoid with the time we’re given. The pursuit of such avoidance is often on our mind and always on the clock.

Bronnie Ware, author of “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying,” has seen that clock run out all too often. Working closely with patients who were in their waning days of life, Ware was gifted with insight beyond her imagination. The palliative nurse developed relationships with countless dying patients, hearing their regrets and unavoidably being drawn to clear themes that emerged.

The number one regret of the dying?

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

Indeed, poet Oliver Wendell Holmes lamented that “many people die with their music still in them.” Ensure your unique, wonderful symphonies are fully realized by living a courageous and self-congruent life in these three ways.

1. Elevate your values to sacred status

Values are those little things we do each day that exemplify who we are. They are the daily little impressions we make that leave a huge permanent impression. You have a choice to live each day in support of your values, or in spite of your values.

Research indicates that if I asked you to write down your values, 85 percent of you could rattle off the top one or two quickly. But the real question is, do you consistently live by these values and let them guide you? Do you hold your values sacred?

Living by your values turns guesses into good decisions. When we go astray from our values, regrets pile up.

2. Follow an authenticity code of conduct

Authentic behavior binds human beings to one another. It is deeply satisfying for those conducting and receiving; it helps reinforce self-identities and creates bridges to a sense of belonging.

In fact, as human beings, one of the most essential ways we search for meaning is by answering such fundamental questions as “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?” Along the way, we continually compare and contrast our present situation to our beliefs about who we are/where we belong, looking for matches and misalignment.

It’s when we ignore misalignment that regrets begin to surface.

Here’s an Authenticity Code of Conduct to help you stay on course with your true self:

  • Be a beacon of transparency, integrity, and honesty
  • Be worthy of trust and belief
  • Behave in a genuine and approachable manner, with humility, humanity, and vulnerability
  • Believe in the power of bringing your whole self to light, always
  • Be beholden to the truth, especially self-truths
  • Be the first to show passion and productive emotion, to laugh and exude joy

3. Articulate and animate your purpose

Purpose is the profound why. Why are we working so hard? For what higher-order reason? Purpose creates a sense of personal mission to do something worthy.

The road to regret is paved with lack of purpose.

Above all else, purpose is personal. The pursuit of our individual purpose yields tremendous meaning. Meaning starts with “me” for a reason.

If you’re still searching for a sense of purpose, you’re not alone. Try the Purpose Power Questions that follow to help unveil what your purpose might be. Keep at the forefront the context of serving something greater than yourself:

  • What are your superpowers?
  • What are your values and beliefs?
  • What would you do for free?
  • What part of you is not showing up?
  • What have been your happiest moments?
  • What have you learned from your misfires and triumphs?
  • What deed needs doing?
  • Who might you serve?
  • What would friends say you were meant to do?

So what say we live with self-congruency and leave the top regret of the dying where it belongs — on the great To Don’t list of life.

This story originally appeared on

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