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How to Live so You Die Without Regrets

By HERWriter
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How You Can Live so You Can Die Without Regrets Olga Lyubkin/Fotolia

In the sixth century, Saint Benedict instructed the monks in his monastery, “Keep death always before your eyes.” Maintaining awareness of death is an ancient spiritual practice that nurtures humility and perspective.

If we keep the finality of death in our minds, our day-to-day struggles reduce to their proper proportions. There is a clarity to the impact of our choices, we choose better, and make less room for regrets at the end of life.

Brother David Steindl-Rast wrote for the blog Parabola, “The finality of death is meant to challenge us to decision, the decision to be fully present here now. . . .” How can we choose to be present, and live a life that leaves no room for regret?

Work this weekend or take the kids to the mountains? Is a new sofa worth the time, money and sacrifice? Are my over-scheduled days sapping the joy and spontaneity out of my life? Out of my children’s lives?

Writer Bronnie Ware spent years working in palliative care. She spent time with the dying in their last three to 12 weeks, and began to notice five common themes among those people who expressed having regrets.

She shares these themes on her blog post, “Regrets of the Dying.”

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

2) “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”

3) “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

4) “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

5) “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

None of us knows the number of our days. Are we living an authentic life? Do you love your job, where you live? Have you created a standard of living that requires long work hours and overtime? Would you be happier with fewer material possessions and more time with your family?

How is your emotional intelligence? Do you express how you honestly feel, or hang onto resentments? For a description of emotional intelligence, watch this EmpowHer video.

Are you taking time to nurture friendships with phone calls, notes and visits? Is there someone who would love an invitation to dinner? Are you happy?

In her book “The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying,” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote, “It is very important that you do only what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may live in a shabby place, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days, you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.”

None of us has unlimited time. Do what you came here to do. Start now.


1) Parabola—the Search for Meaning. parabola-magazine.tumblr.com. Retrieved January 11, 2016.

2) Regrets of the Dying. BronnieWare.com. Retrieved January 11, 2016.

Reviewed January 11, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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