I have always wanted to live my life with no regrets; pushing life to the ultimate limit and experiencing just about everything (that’s why I have such a big bucket list!). With that said, it’s understandable that sometimes the craziness of the day-to-day tasks gets in the way of making progress towards your ideal life.
Unfortunately, while you are busy with the routines of life, time may fly by all too fast and before you know it you will be looking back on your life with some big regrets. The best way to limit these regrets is first by understanding what the biggest ones are and second, by taking action before it’s too late.
What are the biggest regrets of the people dying?
Here are some of the biggest regrets people may have as they look back upon their lives.
1. Not Making Amends
We all saw this one coming, right? It’s no surprise that not making amends with old friends and family members makes this list. Sure, sometimes we need to let go of toxic people in our lives. Other times, we hold grudges that aren’t healthy and definitely don’t make us happy.
Take a minute to reflect on each situation—there is definitely at least one that popped into your head, right?—and think about whether you really want to move on or if you might want to mend that bridge. Remember that sometimes making amends isn’t about making the other person feel better, but about your mental wellbeing.
2. Sweating the Small Stuff
You might not have been expecting this one: the elderly regret having wasted so much time and energy stressing over little things of life. That’s understandable though, right? We all know that at the end of the day—not to mention the end of our lives—it probably doesn’t really matter that you had a bad hair day, or that your dog pooped on the carpet, or that your spouse forgot to take out the trash.
Letting those things go can free up so much energy that we can redirect towards appreciating the big stuff. Worrying is the number one way of wasting precious time, which in turn severely affects your happiness, so if you’re going to do it, make sure it’s about something important.
3. Unaccomplished Goals
I’m all about goals—I did create a website about completing my bucket list after all—but I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I let life get in the way of completing those bucket list items. Surely many people at the end of their lives have fallen into this trap and have regrets about not achieving their dreams.
Things like busy work and, let’s be real, laziness can hold us back, but more often than not it’s fear that stops us from reaching our goals. Writing down your goals is a good step, but it’s only the first step. Figure out one thing that you can do every day to get one step closer to achieving what you really want.
4. Words Left Unsaid
“Looking back, I have this to regret…that too often when I loved, I did not say so.” David Grayson
Another way that fear stops us from living our lives to the fullest? We’re so often afraid to speak our minds, to tell people how we feel, or to say something that might make us vulnerable. Of course, that includes the usual suspects: “I love you,” and “I’m sorry.” But withholding your feelings when you’re struggling, hurt, or upset can cause just as much damage to our relationships and lead to serious regret in the long-term. Choose your words wisely, we don’t want to be hurtful, but say what you feel. When you don’t you are withholding a little bit of the truth inside.
5. Working Too Much
Having our phones in our pockets can mean constant access, making it harder than ever to mentally clock out at the end of the day. Add that to the fact that most employees aren’t encouraged to take time off of work, and we live in a real workaholic culture.
Even if your job brings you genuine joy—by the way, does it?—and you tend to overwork yourself, at some point you’ll probably regret not having carved out more free time to explore the other things you love.
6. Worrying Too Much About What Others Think
Everyone struggles with this self-consciousness in a different way, and it takes a long time to overcome. But the funny thing is, we all walk around worrying what others think of us. How much time do you actually spend analyzing others and judging their decisions? No much—me neither. And they are probably not concerned with analyzing you a thousandth as much as you’re doing it to yourself.
The sooner we let go of this inhibition, the sooner we’ll be able to be our true selves and focus the things that actually bring us joy.
7. Not Following Their Passion
Again, most of us aren’t exactly encouraged to follow our passions in this workaholic society that believes in a conventional life of having a good 9-5 job, loving spouse, adorable children and a large home. Doing what you love doesn’t necessarily mean giving all that up and quitting your job to become a painter, or moving to Costa Rica to do yoga every day. (It totally can, though.)
Do some real reflecting on why your dream job is your dream job, and whether you’re truly setting yourself up to be happy with what you do.
8. Taking Life Too Seriously
It’s difficult to fully imagine which of our stressors, achievements, failures, and dreams will still seem important to us when we’re on our deathbeds. But you can probably come up with a pretty good idea in the moment if you need to. Many of the things that we believe are “the end of the world” in the moment won’t even matter in 10 to 20 years, maybe even in a month.
It’s easy to remind ourselves not to sweat the little things, but sometimes we need reminding that those ‘big’ stressors might not actually be so big either. Plus, most times you have no control over them, just the way you react to them. So, take the time to put things into perspective and learn to laugh a little more.
9. Not Listening to Their Intuition
We all know what will make us happy—and often, it’s not even buried that deep down. We can get a little mixed up and need to correct our course sometimes, but we also know what it feels like to be drawn towards one decision only to have our instinct tell us to go in another direction.
Not listening to that instinct can get us into all kinds of messes that can feel completely overwhelming; winding up in a career that you don’t enjoy, in a city you don’t love, or neglecting a passion that you slowly let fall to the side. Check in with yourself—that intuition wants to be heard.
10. Not Spending More Time With Family and Friends
In the end, our relationships with family, friends, and partners bring us more joy than working or superficial successes do. At the end of their lives, people so often regret not having spent more time with their kids, not having been a better spouse, and not keeping in touch with friends and relatives.
Luckily, this is a fairly easy one to fix: look at your calendar for the week, figure out how much time you spend in the office or doing household duties, and compare that to how much free time you have. Schedule in spending times with your loved ones, just like you would any other appointment.
When people look back on their lives, more often than not their regrets have to do with things that they didn’t do. They didn’t follow their passion, spend more time with their family, or listen to their intuition. They wish they had been more open about their feelings, prioritized the goals that were really important to them, and brushed off other people’s opinions more often.
On a daily level, those can be incremental changes. But after decades of making those small adjustments, hopefully we can avoid sharing some of these common regrets. I hope to learn from these lessons and continue to live a “no regrets” kind of life.