This episode of the Feel Good Effect podcast features an interview with Bronnie Ware, author of the bestselling book, The Five Regrets of the Dying.
In this conversation you’ll learn how to live a life without regret.
Want to Live Without Regret? Here’s How with Bronnie Ware
We are talking with Bronnie Ware, author of the international bestseller, The Five Regrets of the Dying, about the most common regrets people have at the end of their lives.
You’ll get insight into these regrets and how to make small changes in your life so you don’t end up looking back and wishing you had done things differently.
On what led Bronnie to write her book, The Five Regrets of the Dying:
Bronnie has been working with dying people for years, a job she just kind of fell into.
She’s also a singer/songwriter and years ago, a music magazine asked her to write an article about a songwriting program that she set up for the dying people she worked with.
After she wrote that article, she realized that she loved writing so she started a blog.
The regrets of the dying people she worked with had had a huge influence on her and transformed her own life, so she wrote an article about that.
From there, her blog took off, which led to writing a book based around her own life.
After 25 rejections, Bronnie got out of her initial contract and released it independently.
Sometimes we just have to take that first step.
On caring for other people and balancing wellness:
Bronnie burned out because she didn’t balance her own wellness.
She had no support working for dying people; she was devoted to them and when they died, she would take a couple of weeks off of work and then she’d go again.
It can be really difficult for carers and naturally giving people to realize that they need support as well.
For anyone who is in a caring role, whether it’s as a career caregiver, a parent, or looking after elderly parents, if you are giving but not creating space for your own nurturing and allowing your heart to receive support, you’re heading in a dangerous direction.
On having persistence even when the next step isn’t happening:
The pain of doing the wrong job is what gave her the courage to keep going.
The book that was rejected 25 times is the same book that now reaches people in 32 languages, but it’s also been updated and improved.
If you’re in that same place, experiencing rejection when you try to take the next step and publish a book, be open to the fact that your work may need improvement.
But it also may just be that it’s not what publishers want right now.
There are so many opportunities for self-publishing, so there are other ways to release a book.
There’s also a level of timing and readiness– you may not be ready, and time may be on your side.
On the top five regrets of the dying:
These five themes continuously came up in conversations Bronnie had with the people she cared for.
There wasn’t any official “collecting” of their wisdom, instead, there were repeated conversations coming up naturally again and again that she wrote about.
Her role was a listener, not an interviewer.
And their wisdom became part of her awareness; when she sat down to write her blog, she didn’t have to think at all because she had already been making changes in her own life to make sure she didn’t have these regrets herself.
By the time she wrote the article, it was already part of her life philosophy.
1 | I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This is the most common regret that Bronnie saw.
Be courageous and live the life that your heart is guiding you to.
It is hugely difficult, but if we can do it one step at a time, life will reward us by supporting us with shortcuts, insights, and help.
“We are all on ever-decreasing time, and there’s no point thinking ‘one day I’ll get around to it’.”
If we can face the fact that we are all going to die, then we can use death in a positive way, as a tool for living.
If I don’t find the courage to do it now, when am I ever going to do it?
Find the courage and take the first step– deal with the next step as it reveals itself.
“We don’t need to know all of the answers. We just need to be courageous enough to take the first step and trust where it leads.”
2 | I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
It’s about not making work your whole life.
Especially for those who love their work, it can be difficult to know where work ends and life starts.
It’s not about not loving your work, it’s about creating space for other areas of your life as well, even if you think that they don’t tend to bring you as much joy.
If you give them a chance, they will bring you joy and create a balance.
Time with your family, with your friends, exercise, stillness… all of those things.
Sometimes when life is full, you have to create that space within it.
“If we’re going to work too hard, we often block ourselves from the blessings life is trying to give us to support our work. It’s not always about us having to know every step of the way and doing it all ourselves.”
When we’re working too hard, it’s often fear-driven.
If we can step away and allow life to support us a little bit, we often realize that, instead, we can work efficiently.
3 | I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
This came from two different angles:
I. People wishing they had the courage to tell their loved ones how they felt about them, to actually be vulnerable in front of their family and loved ones, to let them know just how much they loved them.
There were a lot of people in Bronnie’s work who were uncomfortable with that level of exposure and vulnerability, and it broke their heart at the end because it was too much to start from scratch.
II. People wishing they had expressed their feelings in their own defense, where they had taken on the opinions of others and not spoken up, or not allowed people to get to know them.
4 | I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Many people who Bronnie worked with wanted to reminisce about the old days and laugh with their old friends who they no longer had contact with.
Even now, when it’s easier to keep track of friends with social media, the bond of friendship is not maintained without at least the occasional real-life connection.
Our friendships sustain us through everything.
Human (in-person) connection should be treated as a priority; we need it for happiness and wellbeing.
Connection doesn’t have to be an expensive weekend away, it could be a monthly lunch like Bronnie and her friends or a monthly book club like Robyn and hers– anything that gets you connected to the people you care about.
5 | I wish I had let myself be happier.
Many people Bronnie worked with realized that they had created an identity around what other people had punished them with.
“Happiness is a choice. Life isn’t always happy. We have to have contrast to grow and realize our potential… and step into our best self.”
If we can get unstuck from our disempowering stories and focus on the blessings, it’s not the denial of those feelings, but it’s our choice as to how much energy and focus with give them.
“We can become the owners of our own minds and steer them back to thoughts that are hitting closer to happiness and joy than misery and suffering.”
There’s always beauty around us. There’s always something there to support us.
On how Bronnie’s book and being a mother:
Bronnie allows her daughter’s spirit to be as free as it can be.
Through her journey of working with dying people and stepping into the public eye, Bronnie has had to completely let go of what people think of her, so she has allowed her daughter that same freedom.
Together, they appreciate slow mornings and Saturdays without plans.
And based on these regrets, as best she can, Bronnie tries to make sure her daughter doesn’t care about what other people think of her.
Her daughter dresses and styles herself completely and Bronnie has no embarrassment because she sees the radiance in her daughter.
On what it really means to be healthy:
“It means honoring your heart with as much joy as possible… make happiness the priority and be gentle with yourself in the process.”
Do you think courage is something you’re born with, or something that you can learn?
Bronnie Ware is best known as the author of the international bestselling memoir The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, with translations in 32 languages and a movie in the pipeline. Bronnie is also an inspiring speaker, singer/songwriter, and the creator of the Regret-Free and Blooming community. She lives in northern NSW, Australia, and is a passionate advocate for simplicity and leaving space to breathe. Bronnie’s favourite role is as a mother. Her favourite teacher is nature.
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