Book Summaries

Book Summary – The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

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Life is over so quickly. It is possible to reach the end with no regrets. It takes some bravery to live it right, to honour the life you are here to live but the choice is yours. So will be the rewards. Appreciate the time you have left by valuing all of the gifts in your life and that includes especially, your own, amazing self.

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Australian palliative caregiver Bronnie Ware, documented the top regrets of her dying patients, their insights on living, their dying epiphanies and their top regrets. Having cared for and sat by the bedside of terminally ill individuals for several years, she got exposed to their unbearable pain and anguish of dying with regret. The insight she garnered from being around them led her to start a blog and eventually led to writing a memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.

According to Bronnie Ware, there are 5 top 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 hadn’t worked 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.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Here are my favourite take aways from reading, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware.

  • Our society has shut death out, almost as a denial of its existence. This denial leaves both the dying person and the family or friends totally unprepared for something that is inevitable. We are all going to die. But rather than acknowledge the existence of death, we try to hide it. It is as if we are trying to convince ourselves that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ really works. But it doesn’t, because we carry on trying to validate ourselves through our material life and associated fearful behaviour instead.
  • If we are able to face our own inevitable death with honest acceptance, before we have reached that time, then we shift our priorities well before it is too late. This gives us the opportunity to then put our energies into directions of true value. Once we acknowledge that limited time is remaining, although we don’t know if that is years, weeks or hours, we are less driven by ego or by what other people think of us. Instead, we are more driven by what our hearts truly want. This acknowledgment of our inevitable, approaching death, offers us the opportunity to find greater purpose and satisfaction in the time we have remaining.

The Top Five 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.

The regret of not having lived a life true to themselves was the most common one of all. It was also the one that caused the most frustration, as the client’s realisation came too late. They say though that we do more to avoid pain than we do to gain pleasure. So it is when the pain becomes too much that we finally find the courage to make changes. Until then, the pain within me was just continuing to fester until it did reach a breaking point.

The majority of us are the same, in that we just want to be happy. And on some level, we all have hearts that suffer.

We are all fairly malleable, bendable creatures really. While we have the choice to think for ourselves and have free will to live the way our hearts guide us, our environment has a huge effect on us all, particularly until we start choosing life from a more conscious perspective.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

We spend so much time making plans for the future, often depending on things coming at a later date to assure our happiness or assuming we have all of the time in the world, when all we ever have is our life today.

They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

The energy of dying people is so weakened that a small outing becomes like working an eighty-hour week lifting bricks. It completely drains them. Family and friends too don’t often realise how their well-intended visits can exhaust sick people. When they are in their last week or so, visits of more than five or ten minutes can become hard work for the patient, yet this is when they are usually bombarded with visitors.

We put too much emphasis on the money. What we need to do is work out what we want to do, what project, and work toward that with focus, determination and faith. Don’t make it about the money. Make it about the project instead. Then the money will attach itself to you naturally, often through unimagined sources.


Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end, it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

Guilt is toxic. Expressing our feelings is a necessity for a happy life.


Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

Friends will come and go throughout life. That’s why we should value them while they are here. Sometimes, you simply finish learning or sharing what you were meant to through each other. But others will stay the distance, and that history and understanding is a comforting thing when ou’re at the end of the road.


Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

We have the freedom to choose what we focus on. I try to choose the positive stuff, like getting to know you, like doing work I love, not being under pressure to reach sales targets, and appreciating my health and every day of being alive

Don’t worry about the little stuff. None of it matters. Only love matters. If you remember this, that love is always present; it will be a good life.

The things you often think you need are sometimes the things that keep you trapped in an unfulfilled life. Simplicity is the key to changing this, that and letting go of the need for validation through ownership or through other’s expectations of you. Taking risks also requires courage. But you cannot control everything. Staying in a seemingly secure environment does not guarantee that life’s lessons will pass you by unnoticed. They can still come out of the blue, when you least expect them.

  • To be courageous and to live a life true to your heart, one that will see you pass without regret.
  • Kindness and forgiveness are a great starting point. Not just to others, but to yourself as well.
  • Forgiving yourself is also such a necessary component for this process.
  • Without it, you continue to add fertiliser to the existing bad seeds in your mind by being hard on yourself, as I once did too. But self-forgiveness and kindness weakens the strength of these seeds. Healthier ones replace them and grow stronger, in time overshadowing the old seeds until there is nothing left to sustain their growth.
  • By being kind to others and tossing your judgment out the window, you are being kind to yourself too by planting better seeds. Forgive yourself for blaming others for your unhappiness. Learn to be gentle on yourself, accepting your own humanness and frailty. Forgive others too who have blamed you for their unhappiness. We are all human. We have all said and done things that could have been otherwise done in a kinder way.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |