“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” – Mark Twain
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you are at your own funeral – a little unsettling, I know, but stick with me. Now think about the life that you led, the people you met, the experiences you shared, and the places you’ve been. What are you most proud of? Are there things you wish you would have accomplished? Are there things you would have done differently? People die with many different kinds of regrets. Don’t be one of them. Here are the fifteen most common regrets people feel in old age.
Not Traveling When You Had the Chance
This is the most common regret patients tell me when they enter their senior years. Explore while you are young and in peak physical shape. Hike in the mountains, swims in the oceans, explore faraway lands and different cultures. Avoid excuses and allow yourself to experience the beauty and the majesty of this planet while you are young enough to do so. It becomes much harder when you enter old age.
Staying Too Long in an Unhealthy Relationship or Bad Job
No one leaves an unhealthy relationship and wishes they had stayed longer. The same is true with a bad job. When it’s just not right, allow yourself to cut bait and move on. When you are old, you will remember the people who had a positive impact on you and were loving and supportive of you. Seniors look back at the periods spent in bad relationships and bad jobs as wasted time and lost opportunity.
Never Taking a Big Risk
Having the courage to take that great risk when the opportunity arises will make your life completely different. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Never back down from creating the life you believe you deserve. Looking back you’ll think, “What was I so afraid of?”
Caring Too Much About What Other People Think
Why limit your interests and dreams just because you’re afraid of what other people will think?
In twenty years, you likely won’t care about the people you once tried to impress. Stay true to who you are. Your life journey is unique and if you focus on what others think, you will be distracted from what is truly special and important to your happiness.
Working Too Much
No one looks back at the end of life and wishes they spent more time at the office, but they do wish they spent more time with family, friends, and hobbies. One of the biggest regrets people have at the end of life is that they were so busy working that they forgot to live. They were so busy making money that they never had fun. Try to find work-life balance so that you can make money doing what you love and also have free time to spend it.
Not Asking Your Grandparents Questions Before They Die
Most of us realize too late what an amazing resource our grandparents are. Your grandparents can explain everything you’ll ever wonder about where you came from and details of your family’s history. Open the video feature on your phone and record your grandparents telling their life stories from the beginning. Take pictures. Make memories. Your grandparents can share stories of the glory and the pain of your past generations, but only if you ask in time.
Failing to Make Physical Fitness and Health a Priority
Too many of us spend the physical peak of our lives sitting at our desks and in front of the TV. Consistent exercise during youth and middle age increases your chances of being healthy and fit enough to enjoy your senior years. You don’t want to hit 60 and beyond and dream of what you should have done physically. This is true in all aspects of caring for your body, from exercising, to using more sunscreen, and caring for your skin and teeth. For example, once you have dentures, the concept of brushing and flossing seems maddeningly easy.
Ignoring the Beauty of the Present Moment
Life is short and once the ride is near the end, you will wish that you practiced mindfulness, and relished more in the present moment. Take time to appreciate the simple things in life and feel gratitude for the beauty of the sunrise, the warmth of your coffee, the giggles of your children, and the wonders of nature. It is these things you will remember at the end of life as being the building blocks of your joy.
Not Trying Harder in School
Your grades play a role in determining where you end up in life. In school, however, it’s easy to become distracted by things that feel more important at the time such as friends, sports, social activities, teen romance, and even the drama that accompanies youthful relationships. Eventually, you’ll realize how fun it was to spend all day learning, and have fewer life responsibilities, and you’ll wish you’d paid more attention in school.
Not Standing Up for Yourself
When you were a baby, you freely asked for everything you needed, from food to sleep to attention. You demanded to be heard. Somewhere during childhood and young adulthood, that ability can become lost so that we let others control us or make us feel less important. Others try to tell us what to do and attempt to dictate how we feel. Old people don’t stand for this. In your senior years, you may wish you stood up more for yourself and your beliefs.
Being Afraid to Say “I love you.”
There are many ways to tell someone you love them and deeply care for them. Don’t be afraid to show others how you truly feel. What is there to lose? When you are old, you won’t care that your love wasn’t returned, only that you made it known how you felt.
Not Realizing How Beautiful You Were
Far too many people are insecure when they have no reason to be, and this acts as a deterrent to realizing your dreams. Too many of us spend our youth unhappy with the way we look, but the reality is, that’s when we are our most beautiful. We are all unique and beautiful in our own way. Don’t let this become a regret that holds you back. Be confident in yourself and your dreams.
Holding Grudges, Especially Toward Those You Love
At the end of life, holding on to anger over past transgressions will seem meaningless and a waste of valuable time you could have spent with loved ones. Practice forgiveness, even if you don’t agree with what the person did. You can forgive and not forget and you also can forgive without ever allowing the person to hurt you again. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself and, in old age, it will bring you peace and not regret.
Not Playing with Your Kids Enough
When you’re old, you’ll realize your kids went from wanting to play with you to wanting you out of their room. In the blink of an eye, their friends become more important and then they leave home and create families of their own. The biggest regret parents say is that they wished they have played more with their kids when they were little.
Not Spending More Time with Loved Ones
Our time with loved ones is finite. The demands of work and maintaining a living can leave you little time for enjoyment. Make that time count. At end of your life, you will wish you spend more time in the presence of those that you love, particularly your parents. It’s expected that you will outlive your parents and it is a fact that they won’t be around forever. If you don’t spend enough time with them now, you’ll regret doing so when they are gone and it’s too late.
Dr. Susan Spicer is a licensed psychologist specializing in forensic neuropsychology. She is Founder and President of Brainwave Technologies.