Through the years I’ve worked as a nurse, I’ve had patients of all ages share their life stories with me that I could never forget—especially from patients in their older years.
Once in a while, they would look back on how they’ve lived their lives. While many of them said that they were happy enough with the choices they made, some were very honest to admit that they also had regrets.
Steve Jobs said that he would often think about his own death to help him make big choices in life, and I think it’s good advice. Remembering that we’ll all one day leave this world helps us gain a better perspective on what’s truly important. All the pride and fear of embarrassment or failure don’t seem to matter.
Sometimes, it does make me wonder—are we making the most of our time on Earth?
So for this post, I want to share some of the regrets I’ve personally heard from patients in their older years and from other sources I’ve encountered. They remind me to take control of my own life no matter what struggles I face, and I hope they inspire you to do the same.
1. Being afraid of taking risks
It’s true that many risks don’t always pay off, but they often present the most significant opportunities in our lives.
It can be a business, starting a family, trying out a new hobby, or going on an exciting adventure—anything at all that you think will add value to your life while you’re still breathing.
If you’re going for something big, don’t forget that failure is temporary. And if you believe that ten, twenty, or a hundred failures are worth it if it means you’ll one day reach success, then what are you waiting for? Take a calculated risk now and see how far you can go.
2. Not traveling more
A lot of successful people wish they spent more time traveling when they were young and able. All those years spent building an empire can still be fulfilling, but I think everyone can benefit from exploring a new location once in a while.
It’s never too late to book a ticket to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Just make sure you do it practically, and prepare to make some great memories while you’re there.
3. Caring too much about what other people thought
If you’re letting the opinion of others dictate how you are living your life right now, you should know that this is yet another common regret that a lot of people have, especially when they reach seniority.
Will Smith is quoted to have said, “We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.”
Fear of criticism or judgment, especially from family and friends, can stop us from truly living. But as I’ve shared before, we only get to live once. Don’t spend it constantly worrying about what others think. Be true to yourself and create the life that you want.
4. Overspending on things that didn’t have real value
It’s good (and sometimes necessary) to reward ourselves from time to time. But if we constantly use spending as a way to fill the void or deal with boredom, we might end up on our death beds wishing we had more experiences instead of material possessions.
Memories to look back on with our loved ones have far greater value than designer handbags or whatever latest gadget is out.
So if you have all the necessities covered and are wondering what to spend on, invest in experiences and things (such as books and family trips) that are sure to enrich your life.
5. Spending too much time working and not enough time actually living
Work, whether it’s for yourself or for an employer, is a practical part of most people’s lives. But if we’re not careful, we might build our entire life on work that’s stealing our time away from the people and things that truly matter.
This is a very common regret for people who spent their entire lives as workaholics. Not only do they express regret for not having traveled more, but they also regret not cherishing fleeting moments with loved ones.
6. Not believing in themselves enough
I believe everyone has limitless potential. But when we keep repeating to ourselves that we are powerless, we create imaginary limits.
The elderly tend to look back and ask themselves, “why didn’t I just go for it?” I think the answer is a common problem that everyone faces at any age: lack of self-confidence.
Sometimes, the only person we can rely on to support us through it all is ourselves. But what if our own inner voice is so pessimistic and fearful? Then we are our greatest obstacle too.
We should all pay careful attention to our self-talk. Acknowledge when the negativity starts and ask yourself if the thoughts are realistic, or if they’re coming from a place of insecurity and fear. Then turn those thoughts around and remind yourself that you are in control—you are far stronger than whatever temporary hurdle you’re facing now.
Our generation and our kids’ generation are all prone to shortsightedness. We don’t reflect enough on whether or not we’re living a life we would be proud to look back on when we get old. I think it’s time to change that, don’t you?
Hopefully, this post was helpful to you as it was helpful for me to write about it. There’s a lot we can learn from our elders. We may not always want to listen, but their wisdom is based on decades of experience.