Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.” – Kurt Vonnegut.
When asked about regret, some of us may say we have none, while others have many. Whatever our answer, we likely want to avoid the feelings of sadness and disappointment that regret brings.
But life, circumstance and a lack of self-awareness sometimes gets in the way. And then as soon as we know it, we’re nearing the end of our lives, reflecting on things we didn’t do while we had time.
Luckily, this isn’t inevitable. We can make an active effort to live fulfilling lives that we can look back on with joy.
Here are 31 ways to avoid some of the biggest regrets in life, as reported by older adults.
- Be kinder to others, family, friends, and strangers alike.
- Work less, especially if it’s negatively affecting our personal relationships (incl. the one we have with ourselves).
- Spend more quality time with loved ones.
- Try to be a good spouse and parent.
- Allow children to be themselves, without trying to control them.
- Stay connected with parents and build strong relationships with them (provided it’s safe and healthy to do so).
- Be more patient with others (within reason).
- Don’t just rely on physical appearance for self-worth.
- Take more risks.
- Don’t take life so seriously all the time.
- Chase dreams.
- Try not to care so much about people’s opinions of us.
- Travel more.
- Practice gratitude often.
- Express true emotions to others, and avoid a lifetime of “what ifs?”
- Stand up to bullies and set boundaries.
- Let go of pride and apologize.
- Follow a self-care routine (healthy eating, mental wellness, hygiene, and exercise) and stick to it.
- Help others.
- Follow passion, not societal expectation.
- Trust intuition.
- Take steps to reduce frequent worrying and anxiety.
- Learn another language.
- Be present for the death and dying process of loved ones, instead of hiding from it.
- Be present and live in the moment.
- If possible, choose meaningful, fulfilling work.
- Stay in touch with friends, or rekindle old (healthy) friendships
- Work on romantic relationships (provided they’re healthy, still desired, and all parties are dedicated to working on it).
- Pass down traditions and skills.
- Disconnect from the tv, phone, and internet more often.
- Work on building self-confidence.