In an ideal world, by the time we hit 50, most of us would have exponentially more items on our list of accomplishments than on our list of regrets. Unfortunately, for many of us, that’s not the case. In fact, according to one study, nearly one-third of all adults surveyed admitted to having a major life regret, with most admitting that, if they had more time, they’d make some major changes, both personally and professionally.
If you’re wondering how to make your life happier and avoid being plagued by disappointment, read on to discover the most common regrets people have in their 50s. And when you want to make your 50s your best decade yet, start with the 50 Life Changes to Make After 50.
Ending Relationships With People You Loved
Relationships don’t always work out for a variety of reasons, and it’s rarely easy on either party involved. Unfortunately for many people who break up with someone they still care about, this regret follows them into later life. Those “what ifs” are pretty hard to shake off, especially when it was circumstance, not a lack of love and respect that precipitated your split. Fortunately, when you want to show someone special how much you care, you can always start with the 50 Easy Ways to Be a (Much) More Romantic Man.
Not Being More Adventurous
While an adventurous spirit may be something that’s inherent to some people and not others, many people wish they had figured out a way to tap into theirs. In fact, according to a study conducted by insurance company Allianz, not being more adventurous was cited as a regret by a quarter of survey participants. Ready to tap into your adventurous side? Start with the 9 Life-Changing Luxury Adventures You’ll Never Forget.
Wasting Time Hating Your Body
We only get one body in this lifetime, and while many people may be dissatisfied with theirs, make no mistake: you won’t cherish all those years you spent hating your physical attributes when you’ve hit 50. Feel like your body’s not the same as it used to be? The 40 Ways to Get Your Best Body in Your 40s can change that in no time.
Trying to Live Up to Your Parents’ Expectations
Having a good relationship with your parents can be a wonderful thing. However, trying to live up to their expectations, no matter the personal cost, is a major source of regret in many people’s lives. According to Allianz’s study, a shocking 35 percent of respondents admitted they wished they had pursued more of the things they wanted to do, not just the ones expected of them. And when you want to improve your relationships with your own children, start with the 20 Easy Ways to Be a (Much) Better Mother.
Not Eating Healthier
While many people regret spending so much time hating their bodies, many also feel disappointed about not taking better care of themselves, particularly in terms of their food choices, when they had the chance. Considering that diet is directly responsible for approximately 678,000 deaths in the United States alone each year, it’s safe to assume that many would opt for salads over cheeseburgers if they could do things again. Need a diet reboot? Add the 30 Best Foods for Maximizing Your Energy Levels to your meal plan now.
Taking Life Too Seriously
Taking your life too seriously rarely breeds the kind of happiness most people want out of it. If you can’t find it in your heart to have a sense of humor about your life, make no mistake: you will regret it later. Fortunately, when you want to get happier, you can start with the 25 Best Instant Mood Boosters!
Not Traveling More
Travel may be an expensive habit, but those who stick close to home often find themselves regretting it later in life. In fact, 56 percent of the respondents in Allianz’s survey said they would have traveled more, if they had to do things again. The good news? When you want to make your next trip more enjoyable, you can start with the 35 Brilliant Travel Hacks Only Experienced Globetrotters Know.
Holding Onto Grudges
While it may feel good to protect yourself by holding onto a grudge after someone has wronged you, odds are you’ll live to regret it later. Few people go to their grave thinking, “I’m so glad I stayed angry at that person.” Want a healthier, less grudge-filled life? It’s time to ditch the 40 Things to Let Go of In Your 40s.
Not Standing Up For Yourself
Assertiveness is a skill that many people learn too late in life. And unfortunately, failing to stand up for yourself and what you believe in often ends up being a major regret among those who don’t have an assertive nature. When you want to tap into that assertive instinct, try out these 70 Genius Tricks to Boost Your Confidence.
Worrying About Other People’s Opinions
While it’s only natural to care what other people think about you, all those concerns about other people’s opinions are likely to fall into your regret category as you get older. Few people look back on their life and think, “I wish I had let other people’s opinions factor into my decisions more.”
Prioritizing Practicality Over Fun
Of course, bills need to be paid, and it’s best if there’s food on the table. However, for many people looking back on their lives, always putting practicality first and fun second tends to be a serious regret.
Not Attending to Your Health
Your health is one of those things you can rarely get back when it’s gone, and for most people, that leads to some serious regrets. In fact, according to a study published in the International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 13 percent of study subjects admitted regret about not taking better care of their health.
While the idea of sitting in a classroom taking tests while you could be doing anything else may not appeal to many of us, missing out on educational opportunities is actually a major source of regret for many people. In fact, according to research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, education was the number one category in which study subjects cited regret.
Not Accomplishing More
Although accomplishment is a subjective measure, many people find themselves regretting what they perceive as accomplishments they missed out on. “In my clinical experience, older people are more likely to regret what they’ve left undone rather than what they’ve done and wish they hadn’t,” explains Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. “What troubles people in later life are the chances they didn’t take or achievements they didn’t accomplish.”
Working Too Much
While it may seem like working constantly will get you where you want to go in your career, when looking back at their lives, few people ever say, “I wish I had spent more Saturdays at the office.” In fact, working too hard at the expense of a personal life is one of the most commonly-cited regrets. However, when you want to make the most of your time at work, discover the 6 Secret Weapons for Turning the Job You Have Into the One You Want.
Not Telling People You Love Them
If you’re eager to live a regret-free life, there’s one easy way to work toward that goal: tell people you love them. Whether it’s a friend, a romantic partner, or your parents, neglecting to tell people that you love them is often a major regret in people’s lives.
Ignoring Your Instincts
That hunch you had about that stock? That feeling you should have moved to a new city when you had the chance? For many people, the decision not to listen to those gut feelings comes back as a major regret later in life.
Being an Inattentive Partner
When you’re in your 50s, it’s unlikely that you’ll look back fondly on those nights you spent looking at your phone or toiling away at work while your partner tried to connect with you. What you’re likely to regret, however, is not being more attentive to their needs.
Not Taking Vacations
According to a study from Glassdoor, the average American employee only takes about half of his or her allotted time off from work. Unfortunately, for those who tend to skip out on this much-needed R&R, they live to regret it.
While many couples who get divorced are happy to do so at the time, divorce is still one of the biggest sources of regret later in life. In fact, 27 percent of female respondents in one survey admitted to regretting their divorce, while 39 percent of male respondents said the same.
Letting Friendships Fizzle Out
With work, family commitments, and those futile attempts to find time to sleep, it’s no wonder we have so little time for social interactions as we get older. However, try to maintain those friendships while you can, or you’re likely to regret missing out.
Missing Out on the Little Moments
Those times you stayed at work instead of watching your kids shine in their soccer game, or those nights you stayed in when your friends went out and had a blast? Don’t be surprised if those land on your list of regrets by the time you’re 50.
Not Saving More
While it may not be fun or glamorous in the moment, saving some extra cash might help you alleviate some of those regrets later in life. In fact, money issues, including not saving enough for retirement, are among the biggest regrets later in life.
Not Trying to Land That Dream Job
Applying to a job, only to be turned down, is never a great feeling. However, what’s worse in the long run, it turns out, is never trying at all. According to Allianz’s data, 38 percent of study subjects admitted that they wished they had taken more career risks.
Knowing that you made someone happy in their lifetime can make anyone feel good. Knowing that you were unkind to someone, and didn’t take the steps necessary to fix it? A major source of regret for most people.
Not Doing More For Others
A little altruism can go a long way when it comes to avoiding regret later in life. In fact, research suggests that more than a fifth of people would prioritize volunteering if they had more time.
Not Seeing Someone Before They Died
While our busy lives often get in the way of spending time with the people we love, it’s well worth doing so. Not seeing someone before their death is a major regret for many people, and sadly, one of the few that can’t be remedied.
Not Appreciating Your Youth
They say youth is wasted on the young, and that’s undeniably true. While you may have thought you were uncool, unattractive, and not so great at 18, by the time you’re 50, it’s highly likely you’ll regret not appreciating that fast metabolism or your group of friends, and generally being so hard on yourself at the time.
Not Being More Romantic
Relationships end for a wide variety of reasons, but few people will tell you that they wished they had been less romantic after all is said and done. In fact, skipping those little chances to show someone how special they are to you with a romantic gesture is often a major regret later in life.
Muting Your Real Personality
Your larger-than-life personality may not have a place at your buttoned-up office job, but hiding who you truly are to the people who care about you will rarely make you happy. Whether you’re simply toning down who you really are, staying in the closet, or pretending to like or dislike things just to avoid ridicule, make no mistake: you’ll regret it.
Not Spending More Time With Your Kids
You’ve probably heard the old adage about parenting: the days are long, but the years are short. In many cases, one of the biggest regrets parents have is not spending more time bonding with their children when they had the chance, spending late nights at the office when they could have been tucking their little ones into bed.
Missing Out on Investment Opportunities
Not snagging Google stock when you had the chance? It should come as little surprise that all those opportunities to strike it rich that people missed out on come back to haunt them later.
Not Admitting Your Feelings For Someone
There’s a reason why people talk about “the one that got away”: not admitting your real feelings about a person tends to rank high up there on the list of lifetime regrets.
Although many people tend to take their parents or family members for granted in the early part of their lives, that feeling that you could have done more to express gratitude to someone you care about is a major source of regret later.
Not Asking That Person Out
Those “what ifs” are never easy to deal with. Case in point: the number of people who still think back to what would have happened if they asked out that cute classmate in high school decades later.
Setting Aside Your Passions
Not everyone can make a living doing the thing they love, and that’s to be expected. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t regret it. According to Allianz’s data, 39 percent of survey respondents admitted that they regretted not following their passion later in life.
Not Being More Present
Those hours you spent looking at your phone instead of being present? Don’t be surprised if you wish you had that time back by the time you’re in your 50s.
Not Appreciating Your Body
It’s not just that time you spent actively disliking your body that may come back to haunt you later down the line. Not appreciating the many things your body was able to do during your lifetime, from never attempting to run a 5K to never thinking you could pull off a bikini, are likely to be serious sources of regret later.
Spending Too Much Time Worrying
While anxiety and stress are unavoidable for many people, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit 50 and wish you had spent more time worrying about things. According to one report, approximately 40 percent of the population worries every single day, but few wish they had wasted more hours doing so.
Being Inattentive to Your Kids
Just because you’re physically present with your kids doesn’t mean you’re emotionally there. And unfortunately, for many parents, all those times spent with your kids when you could have been more present number on that list of regrets by 50.
Not Getting to Know People Better
Shyness may be unavoidable for some of us. However, for many people, those fears holding us back from meeting new people and expanding our social circles plague us later in life.
Letting the Passion Die
Few relationships can indefinitely maintain the passion they had in their first weeks or months. Unfortunately, that ends up leading to some serious regrets. In fact, according to researchers at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, 18.1 percent of study subjects cited romantic relationships were the biggest source of regret.
Not Standing Up For Other People
Most people can think back to a time when they missed an opportunity to stand up to a bully. Unfortunately, when that missed chance means you let someone else get hurt, that regret may follow you for a lifetime.
Spending Too Little Time With Your Parents
We only get a certain number of years to spend with our parents. Sadly, many people take their parents for granted while they’re alive, living to regret that choice when they’ve passed.
Acting Your Age
In our desire to be responsible adults, many of us wind up missing out on a lot of life’s fun. And while it may be nice to have that white picket fence and nuclear family, never letting your inner child out to play is a serious source of regret for many people.
Forcing Your Opinions on Your Children
Speaking of children, if you want to avoid regret in later life, now’s the time to make better choices as a parent. Trying to get your kids to live the lives you want for them, instead of the ones that make them happy is sure to haunt you in the long run.
Not Being More Spontaneous
Whether it’s that time you turned down a last-minute Vegas vacation or your decision to not get up on stage at that concert, a lack of spontaneity is often a major regret down the line.
Not Apologizing More
When you’ve done something hurtful to another person, few things feel better than offering a heartfelt apology, and having the other person accept. Unfortunately, for those who miss out on these opportunities, we often live to regret it.
Ignoring Your Personal Happiness
Success is one goal, but it’s not the only goal people should aspire to. In fact, if you’re ignoring your own personal happiness in pursuit of success, or to make others happy, the odds are good that you’ll regret that decision.
Not Leaving a Legacy
While it’s hard to know what people will say about you when you’re gone, many people will admit that not considering their legacy was a serious oversight. Whether you wish you had had children, wish you had done more for the planet, or simply wish you had been kinder in life, the thought that people might have less-than-fond memories of you—or worse yet, no memories at all—can fill a person with regret. Luckily, at 50, you still have plenty of time to change your legacy for good. When you want to make the most of the next 50 years, discover the 100 Ways to Live to 100.
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