coaching questions

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

A palliative nurse has recorded the top five regrets of the dying.

Photograph: Montgomery Martin/Alamy

There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“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.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“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.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“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.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. 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.”

What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?


By Susie Steiner

NOTE: This article was originally published online on February 1, 2012, at I have reposted this article here for those members of the coaching and/or holistic community who may have otherwise not been aware of it.


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101 Life Changing Questions.

Questions are the tools of the coach. We use words to bring about change. We don’t use hammers, pliers, nails, saws, jacks, screws or whatever else there is to change people, just words. And when we put words in a particular order, you get questions. Pretty amazing don’t you think?

We use those questions to help our coachees in the problem solving process. Those questions are supposed to dig-in deeper and open up their thoughts to explore ideas even further.

It would be a mistake to think that there is an ultimate list of ’killer questions’. Coaching interactions always need to be appropriate to the individual in his or her unique position, and thus a coach who falls back on a predictable set of tried and trusted questions is likely to be mechanical and out of tune with the coachee. Having said this, the questions in this book are based on thousands of hours coaching, have a high probability of value to the coachee, particularly if embedded in language that fits for both the coach and the coachee.

Thinking critically involves a process of reason and discernment through a set of questions. When we respond to the questions we discern a set of answers. This in turn leads to more questions until we come to a point which does not appear to present a new question, or which seems to answer all previous questions. This becomes the basis for discovering the truth about an issue.

Asking questions in order to bring out the truth is nothing new. It’s called the ‘Socratic Method’ and derives from the Greek philosopher Socrates. By asking questions he triggered thinking in the right direction. Questioning continued until the listeners provided the most logical answer to a particular problem and discovery followed. The intention was not to guide the listeners into the direction which was perceived as ‘right’ by the one asking questions. It was about discovering the truth. There is no right or wrong, only the truth.
I have a gift for you today. I have written a booklet that you might enjoy. It’s called 101 Life Changing Questions. These are the questions that seasoned coaches use during the different stages of their coaching sessions.

The questions Top Coaches ask during their sessions.

The questions Top Coaches ask during their sessions.

It’s a gift from me to you for reading my blog and you can pick it up here:

I hope you will enjoy it!