The top 5 regrets of the dying (and how knowing them helps you to live a better life)

“We are drowning in information, and starving for wisdom”

What is the meaning of life?

What does it mean to be human?

What happens when we die?

Is there a better way to evolve than by having children? Can we upgrade ourselves throughout our life?


Can we hack wisdom? In this age of acceleration and obsession with technology, what is it about humans that machines can’t replicate?

Is the truth really out there?

These are questions that psychologist, behavioural scientist and mindhacker, Patrjcya Slawuta, explores with humans all around the world. Her masterclass on 13 November 2017 at Creative Innovation Global 2017 in Melbourne explored sources of wisdom from four areas – Head, Heart, Body and Other Humans.

View this post on Instagram

Patrycja Slawuta created SelfHackathon to serve those who crave life-long learning. SelfHackathon is a platform that bridges science, personal development and technology. SelfHackathon partners with top scientists and world-class experts to break down complex concepts (such as confidence) into easy to understand “hacks” that can be implemented immediately. #startups #hackathon #tech #ciglobal #creative #portraits #editorial #innovation #disruption #eventphotographer #robotics #reportage #blackandwhite #stem #science #entrepreneur #instagood #picoftheday #smallbusiness #thisismelbourne #melbourneme #femaleleaders #onetowatch #selfimprovement #bigdata #blackandwhiteonly #blackandwhitephotography #flair_bw #instablackandwhite

A post shared by James Braund (@jamesbraund) on

Here are messages of wisdom from the head.

It’s all in your head

In a world that constantly talks about the scarcity of natural resources like food, water, energy, it is easy to overlook an obvious reality:

That the human mind is the most untapped natural resource.

Patrycja says that if we don’t know psychology, we don’t know business. This resonated with me deeply and I am sure it was the same for the many intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and innovators at the event. This is particularly relevant as we enter an age of accelerating change.

And this is why mindfulness can be such a useful tool.

Lesson one: Learn to Integrate

We can feel deeply unsettled and overwhelmed when we face a barrage of new information. Ideally, we process this information by integrating it. If we fail to integrate, one of two things happens – our mind goes into chaos or becomes overly rigid.

Both extremes of chaos and rigidity are reactions and defence mechanisms.

One way to hack wisdom and promote integration is to practice mindfulness.

Lesson two: Learn from the top 5 regrets of the dying

Patrycja, who is a researcher on genocide, invited us to turn to those on the cusp of death to gain some wisdom and perspective on the things that mattered most in life.

In summary the top 5 regrets of the dying are:

  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’d stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier

The overarching pattern was of humans looking externally to others for permission to do things. We look for social cues that signal to us that we are on the right path.

But what if those social cues don’t serve our unique goals and needs? What if the only way to truly live a life of meaning is not to wait for others to say we are allowed to do something – but rather to give ourselves permission?

Think about it:

What would you do differently if you gave yourself the permission to live the life of your dreams?

Patrycja invited us to finish this statement:

“I permit myself to______________________”.

Did you complete the statement? How do you feel afterwards? What would you do differently from now on with that in mind?

Lesson three: Infidelity

There are two universal limitations to life on this planet – time and space.

How is this relevant to infidelity? In Patrycja’s masterclass she cited how world expert on infidelity, Esther Perel, would coach couples who were dealing with it. The key question Perel would ask them was:

“Was there recently a loss in the family?”

A loss is often a catalyst for an existential crisis. People can descend into questioning if this “is this all there is?” — and seek out a sense of lost vitality in a passionate new affair or experience. When we become hyper-aware of how limited our time is on this planet, it can be a helpful way to reset our perspective. This can have positive or hurtful consequences.

What would you do differently if you were hyper-aware of your limited time on this planet?

Lesson four: Less is more

“To attain knowledge we add things. To attain wisdom we remove things.”

Patrycja cites the work of Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism – the disciplined pursuit of less. The philosophy of essentialism challenges the modern day practice of “trying to do it all”. Instead of diffusing energy by pursuing many different goals, the essentialist will focus their energy into fewer goals – the right goals – to realize what McKeown calls their “highest point of contribution”.

To hear more from Patrycja, watch our live interview with her on Ideapod and check out or go to

What can infidelity and death teach humans about wisdom?—- Patrycja Slawuta, Founder of Self Hackathon #ciglobal

Posted by Ideapod on Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Kat Dunn

Kat Dunn

I like to connect Ideas & people. I talk about discomfort & inspiring failures. I'm trying to sleep more and shift to a growth mindset. Former lawbot, pilot & leader in finance. Founder of F-OFF: Fear of Failure Forum & working with Ideapod to help companies leverage our collective intelligence & achieve breakthrough thinking. Follow me on IdeapodIdeapod to see my latest ideas.

Notable replies

  1. Regardless of what you believe, when you die you will never be disappointed.

Want to comment? Continue the discussion at Ideapod Discussions


Like this article? Subscribe to our newsletter

Recommended for you

Back to Top

Like this article? Get more like this in your email inbox. Twice weekly.