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Lessons On Living From the Dying


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.


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Susan is passionate about helping women become stronger and more vibrant by helping them define what’s truly important in life. Like all of our Contributing Writers, Susan has found herself at a major crossroads. Her site was one of the top five resources for women over 50, but she felt it wasn’t enough. She now supports women—on a deeper level—and 1010 Park Place is excited to host Susan Tolles’ Q&A’s. She will answer your questions about integrating your life with your desires. Susan doesn’t do fluff. She digs deep. Want to create a legacy that goes beyond material possessions? Ask Susan! Susan can also be found at

4 thoughts on “Lessons On Living From the Dying”

  1. 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

    • 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!

  2. 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

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