— Relationships —

Lessons On Living From the Dying

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The book, The Top Five Regrets of Dying, made me think about how I’m living my own life. Author, Bronnie Ware, was a nurse who spent eight years in palliative care. Her patients made a profound impact on her, sharing their regrets as they faced their last days.

When people reach the end of their lives, they don’t wish they had more money, possessions or achievements. They tend to reflect on what’s deep in their soul, regretting that self-sabotage got in the way of authentic living and wishing they’d worked less, not more.

Here are their top five regrets:

“I wish that I’d let myself be happier.”
“I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.”
“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

The patient who changed the way Bronnie looked at life was Grace.

“She was in so much pain for not having given herself the life she wanted. It had a profound effect on me. She made me promise, before she died, that I would live a life true to myself. I didn’t take that promise lightly. I knew no matter how hard it would be to stay true to my own path—and it does take courage to do that—nothing could be as painful as lying on your deathbed with regret. I was seeing it first hand.”

Living with purpose means you live fully in every circumstance, good or bad. You take risks to pursue your dreams, and you don’t let fear hold you back. When you’re reflecting on your life, you won’t have wasted a ridiculous amount of time and energy worrying and comparing yourself to others. Instead, you’ll have led a meaningful life, not what the world told you to do. You will know that every day was fruitful because you were truly alive.

I wish I’d known these things sooner, but discovering my purpose in my 50’s has allowed me to create a rich legacy. As my faith in God and His plan for my life has grown, so has my faith in myself. If I set my intention every day to follow my own purpose–to inspire passion and joy–then I don’t have to worry about getting my entire to-do list done in one day.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

Knowing your purpose makes you come alive. It provides the daily spark for the “real you” to shine. Your heart will sing; your mind will be clear and full of creative ideas, and your soul will be content, knowing you are fulfilling your calling and leaving a lasting impression on the world.



  • Jen Lawrence October 12, 2016 at 8:31 am

    What a great reminder. I get easily distracted by unimportant things instead of focusing on what I need to focus on for my spiritual journey. Thank you for sharing these wise words. xo

    • Susan Tolles October 12, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      Jen, the older I get, the more I think about what’s really important in the grand scheme of things. I just wish I’d started sooner!

  • Esther Zimmer October 13, 2016 at 4:28 am

    Susan, I really love this, thank you. I’ve read Bronnie’s book, it’s such a valuable read. It’s your words of wisdom that really resonate with me though, on the importance of living with purpose. I feel like after a long time spent chasing my own tail, that I’m doing just that and does make you come alive! I sometimes feel like the concept of ‘finding your purpose’ has been over-complicated, yet you’ve articulated it so well. Esther xx

  • 1010ParkPlace October 13, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Regret is the bottomless pit from which we can never climb out. Just let it go and find a way to move forward with where you want to go. xoxox, Brenda

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