The 8 Most Common Regrets In Life

Lessons on life from those who have already lived theirs.

Maddie Rose
7 min readJun 10, 2021

We all know how fleeting life can be. In the grand scheme of things, we are all but a blimp on the radar of history. And with such a small amount of time on Earth, it can often make you wonder why we fill our time with so many of life’s trivial concerns.

Below are some of the most common regrets people have throughout their life.

Too much time spent worrying

They say that most of the things we worry about never actually happen. And even if they do happen, worrying about them just means that we’ve had to endure those negative feelings twice.

Most of what we worry about is completely out of our control anyway. Worrying about something is often our mind’s way of preparing ourselves mentally for the worst case scenario, but it often drains us of our happiness and time and energy.

“No good sittin’ worryin’ abou’ it. What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.”
- Hagrid (JK Rowling)

Not expressing your true feelings to others

I’m an avid believer in always telling those I love exactly how I feel, almost every time I see them. Whether it’s overkill or not, I don’t really care.

If someone has had a positive impact on your life, let them know.

If you love someone’s kindness, humour or general state of being, let them know.

If you love someone, simply LET THEM KNOW.

This makes you feel good. It makes them feel good. Most importantly, you never really know how much time you have left with someone, so make every second count.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s not always necessary to bite your tongue in times of true angst. Sure, it’s good to pick your battles and occasionally let things slide. That’s often a sign of maturity and peace within oneself. But if you find yourself stewing on something, if you truly feel like you want and need someone to know how they’ve negatively effected you — do it. A good rule of thumb — if it still bothers you after 24 hours, speak up within 48 hours.

We’ve all spent those nights tossing and turning, wondering about all the things we should have said. Standing up for yourself is often a hell of a good thing to do for the soul. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, both in love and pain, is a huge key to building a quality life, deeper connections and feelings of contentment.

Caring about what other people think

No one is thinking about you as much as you think they are. This notion may seem a bit brutal, but it truly is liberating. Most people are far more concerned with themselves than they are in what you’re doing.

If you don’t do the things you want to do, purely because you’re worried about what others may think, you aren’t living a life true to yourself. We have such an incredibly limited amount of time to do everything we want to do — don’t let the opinion of someone else stop you from living your best life. We all end up in the same place, after all.

Do what you want. They probably don’t even care, and if they do? Let them watch.

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

Not following your passion

This one is a little easier said than done, but when you spend the majority of your life working, is it not reasonable to assume that we would be happier doing something we are passionate about?

Sometimes all we can ask for is being able to put a roof over our head and food in our tummy — and this is more than enough. But if you have the ability or desire to be doing something else with your life, to pursue a path you’ve only ever dreamt of, don’t wait around. Do the damn thing.

Whether you pursue your passion as a career, or carve out the time to make it a hobby or a side hustle, it’s important to keep at it if you can. It’s not always easy to find things in life that can ignite one’s soul, so if you find something that lights a spark, you owe it to yourself and your life to follow it.

As they say, it’s always better to try and fail than wonder what if?

Not fully living in the moment

We can often be so focused on the upsets of the past and concerns of the future that we can sometimes fail to simply enjoy what’s in front of us, right here and now.

Being able to remain present in the moment is a skill we can develop. Being ‘present’ is not always an easy state to be in, but it’s so incredibly important to try. All we really have is the “now” — nothing else matters.

I think we can all agree that we should ‘live in the moment’ but actually doing so takes practice. To live in the moment, we must practice mindfulness. Saviour each second and take in all the small things. Activate your senses — look around you, smell the smells, saviour your bites, concentrate on your touch, acknowledge what you can hear. Be where you are by focusing on your surroundings.

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
- Lao Tzu

Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

Not enough travel

If you are fortunate to travel the world, do it (post-COVID times, of course). There aren’t many things as magical as exploring a new city, especially one in a different country or continent from your own.

Travelling expands your mind. It shifts your perspective, and it puts you in your place (in the best way possible).

By the age of 22 I had travelled to nearly 30 countries, and each adventure changed me ever so slightly. I came back less materialistic. I felt my ego shrink. I’d made friends with people from around the world, and with that, gained an array of stories and perspectives. Instead of spending money on more clothes and shitty cocktails, I put the money aside for adventure after adventure and I will never regret the money spent.

For those who have the ability and means to travel, it’s one of life’s greatest offerings. We are so lucky that, more than ever, the world is at our fingertips, ready for the taking.

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

Not enough risks

One of my favourite quotes of all time if to ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway’. We as humans absolutely thrive on feeling comfortable and safe, but just because this is our preferred state doesn’t mean it’s one our lives will benefit from.

Take those risks. Ask that person out, write that book, launch that business, accept that job, move to that city.

It’s scary to leave your comfort-zone, but those who do seem to increase their odds of having a far more spectacular life. Sure, they may fail. But they’ll never be wondering about all the could haves and should haves.

Too little quality time with loved ones

Those nights where you stayed back to impress your manager (who, let’s be honest, probably didn’t notice or care) aren’t going to matter in the long run. Those times you cancelled plans with your friends or parents because you wanted to send another work email, well, they probably will.

As someone who lost a parent in their early 20s, and as someone who would kill for more time with their dad, I implore you to spend as much time as you can with your loved ones, and to live completely in the moment when you’re doing so.

The relationships we have with our loved ones are the most important things of all. Creating memories and spending time with those we love will always trump extra hours in the office or time spent trying to impress those who don’t care about us. You will never know when you might not see someone again, so readjust your priorities if you find they don’t align with your heart.

It’s all well and good to want to work hard, and make a living for yourself and your family. But you don’t want to spend so much of your time making a living that you don’t actually live. Spending time with your partner, friends and parents, matters. Watching your kids grow up, matters. It’s unlikely that when you look back on your life, you’ll think to yourself “Damn, I wish I had have spent more time at work.”

We can learn a lot from those who have come before us. Hindsight is often 20–20. Life can be tough and it can be stressful, and sometimes simply making it through the day is enough. But if you can do your best to be true to yourself, follow your passions, appreciate your time with loved ones and aim to spend as much time in the moment as you can, you will eliminate so many of life’s most common regrets.

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Maddie Rose

Leaving parties early since 1991. Advertising suit by day.