I have been reading a book written by Bronnie Ware who used to work in palliative care, looking after those who were coming close to the end of their lives. Her book is called, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the dying’.

I wanted to go through the top five regrets of the dying, because I think that there are lessons in there for us to learn, as part of the collective who are still living. It may sound morbid, but there’s a lot of positive things for our mental health to take from this.


Number one: I wish I’d had the courage to live my life the way I wanted to, and not the way that others expected me to!

From a career perspective and from being in the workplace, I’ve been very fortunate in that I have done what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve also been in jobs where I have not been doing what I wanted to do. I know what that feels like, and I just couldn’t commit my life to live that way. To me, it did not make my life feel worthwhile. When I hear people talking about staying in a marriage which is unhappy, staying in a job which they don’t like, living somewhere that makes them miserable and they don’t seem to have the ability to carve a different way forward for themselves, I think that’s very detrimental to their mental health.

If you have made a commitment to stick to something that makes you miserable, would you come to the end of your days with massive regrets about having done that?

If you are someone who is currently committed to something that doesn’t make you happy, change that – and know that you can. Sometimes counselling or NLP qualifications for self-development can help to give you the courage you need. It may be hard, but ultimately worth it. Your mental health will be better and all other areas of life – your family, your career – will ultimately benefit from a better version of you.

It can be really tough but I wouldn’t want anyone reading this to die with the regret of having invested yourself into a job, or a relationship, or anything else that makes you unhappy.


Number two: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

Guilty as charged! I think this is a really tough one for me personally. It may not be a tough one for you too, and I think that sometimes it can feel like there is an expectation – it can feel like it is a necessity.

It’s about having balance – and it’s about also having better boundaries. There are times when we all need to work hard, times when working hard feels good. We can enjoy that process, but when it is out of whack with the other things that you should be doing to enjoy your precious time on planet earth, then I can see that we might get to – ‘okay, working hard might be problematic, so what are we going to do here?’ We are going to put some boundaries in place to ensure that there is an equilibrium between working hard and doing the things that we want to do in life that help us feel like we’re happy, helps us feel like we’re connecting, helps us feel like we’re having fun, helps us feel like we’re growing and things that help us feel good in our lives.

This might be something that NLP can help you with. It has been one of the most important lessons I gained from NLP – learning how to say “No.” It’s also been one of the best things for my mental health and wellbeing, especially in the workplace.

Number three: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings

This is something we are not as equipped to do when we are younger. The word in this is ‘courage’. It’s about having the courage to express your emotions. It takes bravery to be able to say how you feel sometimes, particularly where there is a risk of rejection, where there is a risk of the feelings not being reciprocated, where there is a risk of feeling embarrassed and humiliated or ashamed, as a result of sharing those feelings. It’s easy to see why people avoid doing it.

Here is a frame that I’ve personally put around that particular challenge, which has made it a lot easier for me to be courageous about sharing my feelings:

Be honest.

I’m not sharing my feelings the way that I convinced myself that I should, I have a little conversation with myself about being honest.

Being honest about what my feelings are – so this is one that might work for you, which is why I’m sharing it with you. If you find it difficult to develop the courage that’s required to talk about how you’re really feeling, then don’t think about it as needing bravery and courage. Think about it as if you just need to be honest – and, that other people deserve to hear the truth. Other people deserve to have honesty from you. If you proposition it to yourself in that way, then it maybe makes it a little bit easier for you to be upfront and honest about what your feelings are. It then also doesn’t require the same sort of bravery, because you’re not doing it for yourself anymore, you’re actually doing it to serve the other person or the other parties, by being honest and truthful with them.

This is a classic way of reframing a problem into a solution, something that is taught in our NLP Practitioner training.


Number four: I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends

Sometimes we distance ourselves from people not because anything bad happened, but just because we get busy and we get distracted. Some relationships distance because that is completely the right and natural thing to happen. It happens because maybe your lives go in different directions, or it happens because that ‘thing’ happened and now you’re not friends anymore or you know it changed the friendship in some way.

Sometimes it happens that we just grow in different ways. You end up doing a different job – and so your interests move elsewhere, whilst that other person stays with the same interests, or vice-versa. Is it possible to continue those relationships? Yes, sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s really important to keep them – even if it’s that you don’t see so much of each other, you still see something of each other from time to time. Sometimes, we just need to reach out to people and say, “Hey, I miss your grumpy face”, or “I want to spend some time with you and rebuild those friendships” so that they can still be an important part of your future.


Number five: I wish that I’d let myself be happier

Sometimes people are not skilled at knowing how to manage their emotions. For some people, their emotions just show up and affect them – and they have not yet learned how to have some control or management over their emotions. Cognitive behaviour therapies, NLP and even hypnotherapy can help here.

For some, happiness is something that either happens to them or doesn’t happen to them. It’s not something that they feel that they are driving – and that’s the sort of mental health-related issue that’s really about knowing how to command your brain and your body. In the same way, that you might choose to lose weight by eating healthier foods, you have to learn certain things or ways to have that kind of control over your thinking and emotions.

The other portion of the problem is attitude. It is difficult to change, it’s certainly not easy, but it is entirely possible. If it was easy, we’d all just change the thing we were unhappy about. If it was easy, we’d have made the changes already!

The other portion of the problem is attitude. It is difficult to change, it’s certainly not easy, but it is entirely possible. If it was easy, we’d all just change the thing we were unhappy about. If it was easy, we’d have made the changes already! We’re put off from doing the things that could help us to be happier because it means going through a change – and that change might be uncomfortable.

Change might be risky – it often is.

However, we are here for a limited period of time. I don’t want to get to the end of my days and feel like I have those sort of regrets. I don’t want that for you either.

By Gemma Bailey