Money & Career

Biggest regret of the dying and the lesson about work and money

If this was your last day of life, what would your biggest regret be? Would you be sad about the promotion you didn’t get? Or the fact that you didn’t finish your report on time? Probably not. Indeed, according to former palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, you’re more likely to regret the amount of space work has taken up in your life. In her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” Ware chronicles the regrets she heard most when helping people who are living through their final days. Number 2 on the list – “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

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If this was your last day of life, what would your biggest regret be? Would you be sad about the promotion you didn’t get? Or the fact that you didn’t finish your report on time?

Probably not. Indeed, according to former palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, you’re more likely to regret the amount of space work has taken up in your life. In her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” Ware chronicles the regrets she heard most when helping people who are living through their final days. Number 2 on the list – “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

As she explains:

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. 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.”

Can you relate? I sure can – especially now, with tough economic times making family breadwinners out there (men and women) worry more about job security.

Let’s face it, most of us need to work – someone’s got to pay the bills. The question is, are we working in a way that allows us to get the most out of life? And are we living a fulfilling life that doesn’t require us to work overly long hours or at a job we hate just to pay for it?

This is where the dying have an important lesson to teach us about the role work plays in our lives. Says Ware, those who feel that they are working too much should think about the lives they are living and whether or not they could be making different choices:

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.

Making frugal lifestyle choices is one way to downplay the role work plays in your life – this can include finding ways to reduce the amount of money you need to live on every month, downsizing your living space and getting clear about the difference between needs and wants in order to lighten your financial load.

But we can also choose to work differently – leaving the office on time instead of lingering at the end of the day and choosing to say no to new projects you don’t have enough time to complete. Even something as simple as taking a walk during the day or calling your kids or family members during the day can help break the cycle. Just a few small steps can go a long way. Work will always be a reality for most of us, but we can change our relationship to it. And that is an important lesson. 

What about you? Will the time you spent working be one of your regrets? If not, what will be? 

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