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7 Most Common Regrets People Have When They Look Back On Their Lives

7 Most Common Regrets People Have When They Look Back On Their Lives

It’s one of the biggest ironies in life, that many of us live our lives doings things we don’t really want to do, and neglecting things that are truly important to us, and only finally at the ends of our lives, look back and admit we wish we’d done it differently.

It isn’t a big surprise to most people, that on our deathbeds, most of us regret things like not spending enough time with family, or working too much and not having enough fun. We are, as educated adults, aware, even if we are living a life outwardly that makes it seem otherwise, that the most important things in life are family, love, health, and happiness.

Yet, even though we possess enough common sense to know this, many of us are unable to let go of the pursuit of things that often take us farther and farther away from what is truly important, and what we should value the most. Money, professional ‘success’ or promotions, buying more stuff, driving nicer cars, dressing in nicer clothes, filling up our 401ks – these things make us feel like we are accomplishing something during our lives. They allow us to say (if silently) ‘look at me, I’m successful! I’m responsible. I’m smart.’

Yet, while we pursue these things, we miss out on so many others. Like nieces and nephews birthday parties, time with our siblings, family holidays, vacations, intimate relationships.

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Many of us now even spend a couple of decades working and casually dating (like so many of us 20s-30s who live in cities), instead of allowing ourselves to love (like we want to) because we are so addicted to just ‘putting the time in’ until we can fill our bank accounts with enough to make us feel safe, or get that next promotion so we can tell ourselves ‘we’ve made it’ far enough before we can allow ourselves to consider falling in love.

Soon, our work, our career, our goals become our identity and we can’t remember what it was like to relax and go spend a spontaneous weekend with family, or chat for hours on the phone with our mom, or to be in a real and meaningful relationship. We stop getting invitations to friend and family gatherings because people stop expecting there to be any chance of our showing up.

In order to remind ourselves what we should already be reminding ourselves of every day (what is important to us), let’s take a look at a list of the most common regrets people have when looking back on their lives:

1. Not having the courage to be true to ourselves

Most people regret not living a life more true to themselves, but instead feeling obligated to fulfill spoken or unspoken obligations to family, society, etc. They wish they had had more courage to do the things they wanted, instead of the things they felt they should do.

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2. Remaining in an unfulfilling job or career instead of taking a risk and pursuing something we were passionate about

This sort of goes along with #1, but specifically has to do with where we choose to spend most of our lives. Since most of us work more than 40 hours a week and get only about 2 weeks of vacation per year, our careers and jobs are a HUGE part of our lives. If we spend the majority of our time doing something that we don’t like and that doesn’t fulfill us or challenge us, we are cheating ourselves out of what could be a much more meaningful life.

Let go of the image you want to present to the world (with your perfect job or title) and think about what you’d really be willing to do, if you could wake up every day excited about your job. Take a paycut? Live in a smaller house, or move out of the city? Give up the designer clothes and expensive lattes every day? What’s the value of feeling like your life has meaning and being happier?

3. Not spending more time with family

We all know that family should be the most important thing in our lives, so why do so many of us take it for granted until it’s too late? Say no to working late this week and eat dinner with your family. If you’re not married, call a sibling or your parents and see what they’re up to. If they live far away, schedule a Skype conversation. Look for airfare deals and plan an impromptu weekend home. Go fishing with your dad. Whatever. Just do it now instead of waiting until ‘one day’.

Our parents are going to leave this earth sooner than we are which means we don’t have the luxury of waiting until we’ve retired to finally spend time with them. Siblings and offspring are around longer, sure, but they are only young for so long. Soon they’ll have their own families and like the Neil Young (Old Man) song, they might have as little time for you as you had for them when they wanted you around.

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4. Not expressing our true feelings more

Not expressing our true feeling is something most of us regret during our lives, but even more so when we are closer to our deaths. Knowing that the regret is only going to get worse over the years, why not start making an effort now to tell those who are important to you how much they mean to you? Or telling someone you care about, that might not know it, how you feel? The worst outcome can’t be as bad as regretting what you didn’t do, on your death bed

5. Not keeping in touch with old friends

It’s tough keeping in touch with old friends sometimes. Especially if you live or work in different cities, states, or countries. Or if you’ve outgrown each other in some ways, or just have completely different lives. We might think we’ll always have a chance one day to reconnect, or maybe we just don’t think it’s that important because people naturally grow apart.

However, since this is at the top of the list of regrets for most of us at the end of our lives, we can assume that it’s an important one to be aware of. Why not reach out to an old friend via Facebook and just catch up? Plan to have coffee next time you’re in their city or vice versa. Plan a reunion weekend with a group of old friends. What do you have to lose?

6. Working too much/not having enough fun

People seem to really wish they had spent more time having fun, instead of working so many hours, or wasting time fulfilling obligations and doing meaningless things (streaming 50 hours of netflix per week? Probably not going to consider this a great use of time when you’re older). They wish they’d spent more time doing things that made them truly happy/gave them joy.

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Hugged someone lately? Gone to the beach and wiggled your toes in the sand and played all day in the water and the sun? Taken a class on something you’ve always wanted to learn to do? Danced? Laughed? Let the wind and the smell of the forest invigorate you while you hike, run, or bike alone in nature? Every minute spent being happy is good for our health, and these moments are those that we will remember fondly. Why not make as many of them as possible?

7. Not traveling enough/Not taking enough vacations

This is big for us in America, as we just don’t have a lot of vacation time, and we have a culture built around the idea that working harder is better and being seen to work more hours makes you look good to your boss/bosses. But statistics prove that people aren’t more efficient, when they take fewer vacations/work more hours. They are in fact, less efficient. Excessive time working, will only be time you wish you had spent doing something of more personal value.

Figure out how to take more 3 day weekends (even if you have to take unpaid vacation), negotiate more vacation days per year, negotiate work from home days, so you can start your weekends earlier and avoid the ‘who’s still at their desk after 6pm’ game at your office. Set boundaries and stick to them. If your company doesn’t respect your need for a personal life, start working towards getting a new job, with a company that does.

In short: Don’t wait until you’re almost dead to start living.

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via images.unsplash.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude Every Day

11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude Every Day

Maintaining a positive attitude is critical when you want to achieve anything or simply improve the quality of your life. Most success literature will talk about the power of positive thinking and how important it is, but it’s often easier said than done.

In this article, you’ll find 11 tips for maintaining your positive attitude no matter what’s going on in your life.

1. You Determine Your Reality

It’s important to realize that you determine your reality by the way you react to the outside world. When something happens, you get to choose whether it’s a positive or negative situation and react accordingly.

For example, if you lose your job, your first reaction will likely be one of anger, frustration, and hopelessness. However, what if you were able to turn those emotions around and look at that experience as an opportunity.

You now have the chance to find a job where you will be able to learn new skills and perhaps even be happier. And in the meantime, you have some free time to analyze what direction you want the next stage of your life to go in.

2. Start Your Day Strong

Most people have to drag themselves out of bed, and this sets a negative state of mind for their entire day. Positive people create a long-term morning ritual that reinforces how great life is and how happy they are to be alive.

I used to wake up and immediately turn on Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life to get me into a positive mood. Now I start my day by reading or listening to something positive. Whether you have 1 minute, 15 minutes, or an hour to dedicate to your ritual, you can start the day in a way that helps you feel relaxed and ready for the day ahead.

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Cultivate a positive attitude with a great morning routine.

    3. Exercise Is the Natural Feel-Good Drug

    Exercise is a great way to maintain a good attitude because of all the positive chemicals it releases into the bloodstream.

    One study found that between groups who participated in high-intensity interval training, moderate continuous training, and no exercise, those in the second group experienced the greatest drop in depressive symptoms and stress[1]. Therefore, if you’re looking to exercise to help you feel good, get your heart rate up, but don’t push too hard or you may increase overall stress.

    Also, remember that exercise can include many activities. If you don’t like running, try dancing or kickboxing instead. Put on some upbeat music to kick up the positive vibes even more.

    4. Use Books, Audio and Videos to Overload Your Brain with Positivity

    There are millions of amazing books, podcasts, and videos for you to absorb from people who are inspiring and living the life of their dreams. Tap into their positive emotions and their experience by learning how they think and what they do to create the lives they want.

    You can do this in the morning or while exercising, eating, commuting, cooking, cleaning… there’s always time for positivity.

    5. Your Language Shapes Your Thoughts

    Little changes in your language can change the way you think and how you act. Whenever someone greets you and asks how you’re doing, do you answer with “fine” or “not too bad”? Think about just what this language is communicating to others… and yourself.

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    I always answer with “great,” “fantastic,” or “amazing.” Not only does this remind me that life really is great, but it usually helps the other person shift toward a positive attitude as well.

    Also, take some time to look at the way your inner voice talks to you. Is that language positive or negative? If it’s overly critical or negative, it may be time to tap into some mindfulness meditation in order to shift your inner critic to an inner cheerleader.

    6. Hang out With Positive People

    It is often said that you will have a similar level of health, income and lifestyle as the five people you spend the most time with.

    So if you want to be fit, then start to hang out with fit people. Want to start a business? Then hang out with business owners. And if you want to be positive, make sure you’re hanging out with positive people[2].

    7. Show Your Appreciation for Others

    By appreciating others for a job well done, their outfit, or their smile, you start to cause a positive chain reaction. Stop complaining and focus on all the good others are doing around you.

    Don’t you feel great when you receive a compliment from someone else? Well, if you want to receive more, then start giving them out and watch what happens to the people around you.

    One particular study found that people who sent letters of gratitude experienced significant increases in happiness scores[3]. If you don’t feel like writing a letter, send a nice text to someone who recently helped you out, or send an email thanking your coworker for always helping pick up the slack around the office. Whatever it is, take some time to show gratitude.

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    8. Garbage In, Garbage Out

    This is an expression from programming where the result is only as good as the input. If you’re feeding yourself with negativity all day long, then it’s pretty obvious you’re going to be feeling negative as well.

    A great deal of the media thrives on negativity. Put yourself on a negativity diet (including people) and watch how much easier it is to maintain your positive attitude.

    9. Stop Negative Thoughts in Their Tracks

    It’s hard to be a constantly positive person, and negative thoughts are going to bubble up from time to time. These will be more frequent in the beginning but can decrease as you practice the tips we’re talking about. When you start to notice negative thoughts, you can use a pattern interrupt to stop them in their tracks.

    The idea is to interrupt your current thought pattern and shift to a more positive outlook. One way to do this is to set a visual or auditory cue. It can be something as simple as a bracelet you wear each day or the sound of a car passing outside your window. Whenever you see or hear the cue, use it to shift your thoughts to something positive.

    You can learn more on how to shift your mindset and negative attitudes in the following video:

    10. Live With Gratitude

    So many positive things happen during our day, and we often ignore them while letting one negative comment or event ruin our mood. It can help to keep a gratitude journal where you jot down things you are grateful for each night or during the day.

    If you’re reading this, then you probably live with a roof over your head and food in your belly, which is a daily struggle for a large portion of the world. However, we often take these things for granted and don’t realize just how great we have it.

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    Try refocusing your thoughts towards everything you do have instead of what you don’t. One study found that reflecting on past experiences with a sense of gratitude can lead to increases in both hope and happiness[4]. That’s a great reason to give it a go today.

    You can find more ways to practice gratitude in this article.

    11. Recharge Your Batteries

    One key to adopting a positive attitude is taking the time to recharge your batteries. This might mean taking a few hours on the weekend to read a positive book or taking a few weeks for a holiday.

    If you’re not in the position to travel, you can take a staycation, or have a “home holiday” where you simply switch off from the outside world and spend time doing things you love.

    Final Thoughts

    You now have 11 tips for maintaining your positive attitude, but they are no use to you unless you implement them into your life.

    Start small, and pick the easiest tip or the one that you really love and introduce it into your life starting right now. Then, over time, start implementing the other tips and watch your positivity soar.

    More Tips About Staying Positive

    Featured photo credit: Pepe Cast Zam via unsplash.com

    Reference

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