Hindsight is 20/20. We all look back and wish we'd done life differently at times — because, when we have more clarity in the present, we can more easily recognize what we could have perhaps handled better in the past. But the truth is that your present is only what it is because of the decisions and moves you made in your past. Which is why you really shouldn't live with regrets.
But living with no regrets is easier said than done, even if you do understand that your life unfolds exactly how it's supposed to. That's why so many people struggle with depression when they're dying — not only because they're afraid of death, but also because they're regretful of what they'd done or wish they had done throughout their life.
Everyone is different and, as such, life experiences or lack thereof will uniquely impact us all. But here are some of the most common regrets that people have at the end of their lives.
We spend the bulk of our time working and, often, when we're not working, we're still thinking about work — taking time out of our social lives to respond to an email on our smartphones or take a quick business call. We live in a world in which too many of us struggle to set boundaries and, as such, we crush our own work-life balance.
No one ever leaves this planet wishing they'd spent less time with friends and family, the people who bring them joy, challenge them, help them grow and support them.
In a society that so often places us each in boxes and slaps labels on us, expressing our true selves can be intimidating. In fact, we know that those of us who do express ourselves with confidence and conviction are, unfortunately, met with unfounded, unsolicited opinions of others and, sometimes, social penalization.
But living life as you is still worlds better than living life as someone else just to appease others. No one has ever died wishing they'd held back from being themselves more, even if their hardships for doing so are valid.
The world is such a big place, and most of us only see a small slice of it. Too many of us spend our lives saying, "it'll have to wait until next year" or "later when I have more time" or "when I can find someone to go with me." The best time in life is always now.
Of course, many people have work, family or health complications that prohibit them from being able to travel as freely as others. But the reality is that, if you can travel, pushing it off isn't going to get you anywhere. There's a world of other cultures, landscapes, foods, musics and more out there that you can leave never having seen — and that's a lot scarier than putting in a vacation request at work.
Many of us stick around in jobs that don't fulfill us or, worse, that are toxic. Less of us, on the other hand, actually make moves toward our career dreams because it's easy and convenient and comfortable to stay. But those who do go after their career goals — whether it's starting a business or applying for a job at a company they've always admired or giving freelancing a shot or asking for a promotion — are better off.
That's because, even if their businesses fail or they're passed up for promotions, at least they tried. Those who don't try will never know what could have been.
Plenty of people stay in relationships that they know are unhealthy, largely for the same reasons that people stay in jobs that make them unhappy: The familiar is comfortable, and it's just easier to stay put. Too many people, therefore, let love go.
And when they don't give themselves a chance to be loved and give love — the kind of love they deserve and are capable and wanting to share — it can take a toll on their own self-love. Making a move for true love — whether that's working for a relationship that just makes sense, ditching a relationship that doesn't work or merely putting yourself out there — is never going to hurt you in the long run. Even if things don't work out, making moves and learning lessons along the way can only make you stronger.
We spend so much of our lives judging ourselves, as we are truly our own harshest critics. While we may know and understand that comparison is the thief of joy, we still pit ourselves against our peers and friends and think I should be earning more, I should have a bigger house, I should have a steady relationship by now, I should have more money saved, I should be thinner, I should be this or that.
Letting yourself be happy requires you to accept who you are, and love yourself for it — even if you know that there are elements of your life that you'd like to change or improve. Being happy is being uniquely you without judgment, while always looking to grow in whatever shape that growth takes for you.
We too often stress ourselves out over things that have little meaning in the long run. We care too much about things we cannot control, for example. And going through life constantly worried about things we cannot change doesn't do us any good.
That's why no one leaves this earth thinking that they wish they'd have cared more about the inevitable.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.
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