“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.”
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Regret, by definition is: to feel sad or sorry about (something that you did or did not do)
To be able to live without regrets we need to know what our regrets are and what our real regrets will be if we continue live like this.
I believe life is a simple endeavour. If the important things are good, the small things will fall into their place.
Ask yourself: What would I regret if I died tonight?
No, really. Take 2 minutes here.
Ask yourself and take a moment to think about it. Don’t worry about the other 25 tabs which are open on your browser. Don’t worry about the traffic and the trendy music in the background. Don’t worry about news, terrorists, global actions. Don’t worry about what you’ve done today. These are all passing, non important thoughts. Focus on the important here: what would you regret if you died tonight?
Note: reading these articles only make sense if you stop for a moment to think.
People always try to tell you that you are fucking special. And we, placing ourselves in the center of the universe, being part of the only worthwhile animal (or even, divine!) species and us, being the new generation and all that. Don’t believe them!
You are most likely to regret something that others regret from your times. Let’s see what’s that.
Here are a couple things that people never/rarely regret in their lives in the US. Have you ever felt / heard any of them?
– “I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to fall in love”
– “I wish I had spent more time on my computer and watched more TV”
– “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my loved ones”
– “I wish I had played it safe”
– “I wish I hadn’t taken care of myself”
– “I wish I had lounged in my easy chair more often”
– “I wish I hadn’t followed my dream”
There have been many surveys of and interviews of old people what they regret in life. Below you’ll find a compilation of these (with sources at the end of the article).
In 2011 in the US the main sources of regret for all age groups were:
1, romance (18,1 %)
– I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
– I wish I had stayed with the “love of my life”
2, family (15,9%)
– I wish I had been a better spouse, parent, or child
– I wish I had not spent so much time working
– I wish I had spent more time with the people I love.
– I wish had gone on enough/more trips with the family
– I wish I hadn’t let my marriage break
– I wish I had buried the hatchet with a family member or friend
3, Education (13,1%)
– I wish I had finished high school / college
– I wish I had learned another language
4, Career (12,2%)
– I wish I had taken more risks
– I wish I had chosen work that was meaningful for me
– I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
– I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
– I wish I had applied for the dream job
– I wish I hadn’t chosen the practical job over that one I really wanted
5, finance (9,9%)
– “If I could speak to my 25-year-old self, I would say: Don’t worry about money so much. Take more chances. Take a year off, explore the world. It’s not too late, but it gets harder, even without kids.”Don’t listen to that voice that says: If you quit this job or lose this income you’ll never find another. You will.” – Gabriel Friedman
6, parenting (9%)
– I wish I had understood that time with my kids is more about quantity than quality time
7, health (6,3%)
– I wish had taken better care of my health
– I wish I had taken better care of myself
8, “other” (5,6%)
– see comments on “general” below
9, friends (3,6%)
– I wish I had been more loving to the people who matter the most
– I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
– I wish I hadn’t gotten involved with the wrong group of friends
– I wish I had visited a dying friend before he died
10, spirituality (2,3%)
11, community (1,5%)
– I wish I’d have done more for others
12, leisure (1,5%)
– I wish I had been happier and enjoyed life more
– I wish I had traveled more
13, self (1%)
– I wish I had lived my own dream.
– I wish that I had let myself be happier.
And the more general ones:
– I wish I’d spent less time on my phone
– I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying.
– I wish I had stood up for myself.
– I wish I had cared less about what other people think.
– I wish I had been more honest.
– I wish I had lived my own life.
– I wish I had forgiven more.
– I wish I had lived up to my full potential.
– I wish I had faced my fears.
– I wish I’d lived more in the moment.
– I wish I’d had more confidence
– I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying.
There are 3 categories of regrets people usually have:
– The things you did that you wish you hadn’t.
– The things you wish you had done but didn’t.
– The heavy cost of the time you’ve wasted.
1, Let’s start with the things you did. You feel sorry about your previous choices. Well, that’s completely senseless.
We all have past actions we’d do otherwise if we had the chance to go back. Well, we don’t. Do regrets or worries make your present or future better? Well, hurry up, PUSH THE NO REGRET ABOUT THE PAST button. The only truth you can do your past is analyzing it, learning from it and trying hard not to make the same mistakes.
2, Then there are the things you did not do.
Some believe the only things we really regret are chances we did not take. Well, what’s done is done. When you can not wake up from the bed any more (this time will come for you too), you can’t do much about it traveling the world.
At least as long as you walk you have chances to change your life. To get a bit of inspiration read about people writing a law encyclopedia at age 90, enrolled in primary school after 89, running a Marathon at age 100, climbing Everest at 65 here.
3, Wasted time
Every day is a new opportunity. And a new opportunity to waste. News, advertisements, social media, phones, video games, sleeping in, begin hung over after another boring night?
Life doesn’t last forever.
At some point you’ll have to face the time you wasted on feeling like not being there, being addicted, focusing on the non-important and spending time with the wrong people.
And a last advice: after you made a choice (and you’ve already made many important life choices) that you can not change, go with it and put all your attention to focus on it. Thinking of making a change that you can’t or won’t simply takes away valuable energy.