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9 Things We Regret Not Doing in Our 20s

9 Things We Regret Not Doing in Our 20s

Life is filled with regrets. Ask anyone around you what their regrets are and they usually have no difficulty coming up with many items on their “regret list.” And for some reason our twenties are ripe for a field of regrets. Perhaps it’s because as we get older we look back on that period of adulthood as the height of freedom and autonomy. As move into middle age, we look back and wish that we had made better choices and taken more opportunities. Here’s a list of things that we regret not doing in our 20s.

Some regrets of wasted 20s

Traveling more – I regret not travelling more, and so does nearly everyone that I have asked. Before kids, and mortgages and marriages, when our commitments and expenses were lower, the opportunities for travel were much greater, but for some reason many of us thought we’d always have time for travel later. We dreamed of visiting the pyramids of Egypt, surfing off the Hawaiian coast, dining at a Parisian café, drinking espresso in Rome, trekking through the rainforest, and so much more. Sadly, many of us never made these journeys and the opportunity passed us by.

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Investing early – How many times have we kicked ourselves for not starting our 401Ks in our twenties, for not putting our excess cash in long term investments, for not investing in our future early. No matter how much we try, we can never get back the head start that we missed. Playing catch up in our 40’s and 50’s is very difficult.

Being more responsible with spending – In order to invest in our retirement or save for that down payment, we would have needed to make wiser financial spending choices. Things like buying or holding on to that perfectly reliable used car, instead of splurging on the new model…because we could, eating out less and saving for a house instead, buying fewer shoes and purses and clothes and paying off student loans sooner. So many saving opportunities lost, money spent on tangible things, instead of on the future.

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Better planning – I regret not focusing more on where I wanted to go in life, what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be and what it would take to get there. With some more planning in our twenties, we’d be further ahead in our 40s and perhaps a bit happier as well.

Seizing more experiences – I wish I had learned to ski and paint, speak Italian and do the Tango. I regret not living somewhere else before settling down. Others have said they regret not pursuing their hobbies or learning to sky dive or mountain climb. I prefer to stay on the ground, but I do regret not learning more, not trying new things that are hard to fit into the life of a fortysomething working wife and mother.

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Living a more active lifestyle – The bodies of youth are wasted on the young… I wish I had run a marathon before my knees ached, that I had biked more, hiked more, and took spinning classes when my legs were stronger. I regret not joining a softball team or volleyball league. We don’t often realize that we have squandered our physical abilities until things start aching and creaking.

Making more friends – I regret not reaching out more, putting more effort into creating a tribe of support that would carry me through more difficult times. We socialize sure, but many of us don’t put enough importance on building deep and lasting friendships. Some do, many don’t and wish they had.

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Pursuing a more meaningful career Many of us wish we had taken more career risks, opted for meaning over money, pursued the career path we wanted instead of what we were expected to do or simply following the path that was laid out before us. How much better to have explored our options and pursued meaningful work in our twenties than to have spent 20 years doing something we don’t love.

Life is good; don’t misunderstand. Few of us walk around every day pining for our youth, at least I hope not, but we do occasionally look back with a wistful sigh and wish that we planned more, lived more, and stretched ourselves more when we had the freedom and energy to do so.

Featured photo credit:  Teenage girl depression via Shutterstock

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Royale Scuderi

A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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