5 Most Common Regrets in Life & How to Avoid Them

no-regretsLast month, I heard this great talk by Jyri Engestrom, a successful Internet entrepreneur on the topics of happiness.  He said, most people have five regrets in life – all of which resonated with me.  And you probably would agree these are the most common regrets as well.  If so, then I ask you – why not address them now before you are dying so you can live life with no regrets.

Here are what these five regrets mean to me and what we can all do to live life without them today!

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me – It’s amazing how hard this actually is.  The more of an overachiever we are the harder this is.  This is because we instinctively like to compare our achievements and career progression with that of others (e.g, my former classmates, siblings, even friends) or what others we care about may expect of us (e.g, my dad).  While common, the act of comparison is destructive and the more we do it the more we move away from knowing how to live a life true to ourselves.
    What to do to live life with out this regret:  Stop comparing!  Whenever you catch yourself comparing, stop and move on to more important things in life.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard – I worked my butt off the first 12 years of my life and it affected my health.  So I already got this message from the universe that working too hard may not be worth it.  Luckily my healthy issues were temporary.  I think I grew up with the concept that if I am not working hard, then I am lazy and that’s bad.   It sounds a little ridiculous when I write it down.
    What to do to live life with out this regret:  Create a new concept that replaces the one above – Working hard will lead me to miss out on life, so don’t miss out. Work smart instead and make time for life as well before it’s too late
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings – Many times we repress our feelings only to hold on to the hurt, frustration, etc.. too long.  It’s not good for us.  I am glad to say this is one that I actually do often at work and in life.  I hope you do too.  It’s liberating.
    What to do to live life with out this regret:  Learn to express yourself and then let it go.  This does not mean blurt out whatever you think.   Express yourself in a constructive way takes practice and finesse.   The first step is to let yourself do it and overtime, you can improve on the finesse.  This also doesn’t mean expecting others to agree with you.  It’s about feeling complete. Once you had a chance to say your piece, accept that you at least tried whether the outcome is what you expect or not.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends – As I get older and have a family, I am finding less and less time to stay in touch with friends.  It just seems like a year would go by and I would be busy everyday with work, family, blog, etc..   Well, I decided to change this and make keeping in touch with friends a priority as well.
    What to do to live life with out this regret:  Here is how I am doing it without too much effort.

    • I created recurring lunch meeting requests on my work calendar to stay in touch with friends and contacts.  They may be every 4-8 weeks and sometimes gets cancelled or pushed but at least it’s set to reoccur, block out my time on the work calendar, and ensure that I take a decent lunch break once in awhile.
    • I call friends when I am walking to or from work.  It takes me about 10-15 min each way.  I am sure you can think of other ways if you put your mind to it. 🙂
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier – this is is a big one.  As funny as the statement sounds, many of us, including me have a hard time allowing ourselves to be happy.  Why?  it’s because we are trained to want more as overachievers.  We almost instinctively see what else is missing in our lives as this is what drives us to achieve.  Unfortunately it is also what makes us unhappy.   Look back at your week and honestly assess what % of time are you appreciating what you have vs.  wishing you had something more.  If you are doing more of the latter, than you are not letting yourself be happy.
    What to do to live life with out this regret:  A good start is look at life with a glass is half full perspective.  See this post on 9 Tips for Happiness to learn more.

Your comments:  Ask yourself – which of the 5 above would you regret if you are on your death bed?  If you know what they are already, what are you willing to do NOW so you can live life with no regrets TODAY?  Share your comments below.

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4 thoughts on “5 Most Common Regrets in Life & How to Avoid Them”

  1. People in general don’t want to learn about the negatives of your life. A divorce. Sickness. Job loss. Death in the family. Bad luck with your boss. These are negatives which most want to avoid. However there are some gossip Mongols who love to talk negatives around your back. Some wish to avoid discussions while others love to share their bad experiences with others. Personally. I try to share my misfortune with others and it almost never helps. So I learn to keep it to myself. And use Buddhist theology to cope with your distress. My motto is if you can’t give out positive vibes to cheer people up. Then don’t give out anything at all. It will not create friendship if you try to create misery upon others. Due to your own distress.

    1. Joseph, thanks for sharing. Maya Angelou used to say “just because you are in pain doesn’t mean you should a pain to others.” I think it’s very evolved if you to not burden many with your pain.

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