Act Now Or Regret These 5 Things When You Get Old

In one of our earlier articles, we touched upon a number of different choices that you’re more than likely to regret a decade from now, but what about decisions that you’ll regret three or four decades down the road? If you’re lucky enough to live to a ripe, old age, will you look back upon the choices you made and wish that you’d taken another route?

Groups of elders have been interviewed about aspects of their past that they regret the most. Many of them have cited things like working too hard, or not placing enough emphasis on the importance of friendship, but there are several other life choices that consistently make the list of “things I wish I had done differently.”

Take a moment to peruse these five items and ask yourself whether you’re guilty of taking the same route that countless others have lived to regret.

1. Settling For Mediocre Love

Far too many people end up settling for less than what they truly want when it comes to their personal relationships, and pretty much all of them end up regretting that choice when they’re old. Some settle due to a fear of being alone, others do so because the person has all the “right” qualities, even if there’s no real physical, emotional, or spiritual connection.

Screw that.

Life is way too short to spend any great amount of time with someone you aren’t head over heels in love with. You’ll end up miserable, always wondering what might have been, and they probably will too. Is that fair on either of you, really? Affairs are inevitable, divorce is likely, and all for what? Because you convinced yourself that a life with them would be nice and “tolerable”? We tolerate dental procedures: our love lives should be held to a much higher standard.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s better to be solitary than to pour energy into a love that doesn’t inspire and elevate you.

2. Not Standing Up For What You Believe In

Have you ever found yourself remaining silent about a topic because you didn’t want to upset or offend other people, and then felt a ton of self-loathing about that later? Yeah, that.

So many of us bite our tongues instead of speaking out for what’s right because we’re afraid of being mocked, or treated with contempt, or even shunned by those we care about. Our ideals and ethics might clash with theirs, or they may be in positions of authority and we don’t want to disrupt the status quo by acting in the way we feel we need to. But the shame we end up feeling when we DON’T do what we know is right is far worse than any repercussions that may ensue if we DO.

When we don’t speak out or take action, we usually end up haunted by regret. Over and over, we’ll go back and reflect on all the different things we could/should have said, but didn’t. That then spirals down to wondering how the situation would have played out for everyone involved if different action had been taken, and what the long term effects would have been. Yes, speaking out can be scary as hell, and lives can change because of such action, but the consequences of not doing so may be far more difficult to live with.

To quote Professor Dumbledore, “there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy, and what is right.”

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3. Worrying About Everything

There’s an old adage that says something like: “95 percent of the time, what you worry about won’t come to pass, and the remaining 5 percent will happen whether you worry or not, so what’s the point of fretting?”

Consider all the time you have spent fussing and worrying about all the things that *might* happen. Have any of those situations come to pass exactly as you envisioned them unfolding? How much time did you spend fretting?

Most of us get caught in our own paranoid monkey brains and worry about absolutely everything that could possibly… maybe go wrong. We waste precious hours caught in waves of panic and anxiety, and when things don’t play out as we’d imagined, we’re immensely relieved.

Now ask yourself this: do you think you’re going to get any of that time back? We only have so many minutes in our lives, and every single moment we waste worrying about things we have zero control over is lost to us forever. Be present, be mindful, and remember that your track record for getting through difficult times is 100 percent so far: there isn’t anything you can’t handle, so stop fretting.

4. Not Travelling More

Speak to any elderly person and chances are that they’ll get misty-eyed talking about various places they always wanted to visit, but never did.

Many people postpone travelling because they feel like it’s a frivolous expense, and can always be put off for a later date. After all, other things come up that take priority, right? Wouldn’t it be irresponsible to take that trip to an elephant sanctuary in Kenya when the roof needs to be redone? Never mind watching the Aurora Borealis in Norway: the car will need to be replaced sometime within the next few years, and isn’t that more important?

No. No, those things really should not take precedence over feeding your soul with beautiful, life-changing experiences. What the hell are we here for other than to experience wonderful things and grow and evolve and shine? Life isn’t all about spending day after day in an office cubicle: travel changes us, makes us more aware of the world around us, helps us to connect with others, and really just makes life worth living.

Aching to visit a place but never taking action to make it happen leaves a hollow in the core of oneself that cannot be filled by anything else. Don’t end up lying on your deathbed wishing you’d gone to Thailand instead of having your lawn redone.

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5. Holding On To Pain (or Grudges)

To quote a lyric from a film song that is highly overused these days (and yet startlingly accurate): Let it Go.

Holding on to pain, anger, and bitterness doesn’t do you any good, and doesn’t just rob you of the joy you could have in the present moment, but also poisons other relationships you may develop.

Think of holding on to negativity like keeping a burning coal in your fist. All it will do is cause you – and only you – a lot of pain, and yet you’d start to heal the second that you dropped it. If you have trouble forgiving past transgressions or letting go of negativity, locate a great therapist who can help you find a good way to do so. You’ll feel a lot better in the long run.

It’s often difficult to be objective about a situation when we’re mired in it, but we don’t exactly have the luxury of hopping back in time when, 50 years down the road, we have the clarity of hindsight. Here’s a tip: if there’s an elderly person in your life whom you respect and trust, ask their opinion about a topic you’re struggling with. Ask them what they would do in your situation, and heed their advice – they’ve had an entire lifetime to ruminate over what they would have done differently when they were your age, so their insight should be taken to heart.

If you don’t make the same mistakes they did, chances are you won’t end up on your deathbed looking back with the same regrets.

What other regrets do you have in your life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and advice with other readers.

About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.

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