Stacy Robertson
Stacy Robertson
August 14, 2023 ·  6 min read

30 Things People Regret Most Often When They’re Older

When people come to the end of their life there are a number of common regrets which surface. Here are a list of 30 regrets people may have about the way they have lived their life:

1. Less Traveled

People wish they had traveled more. Big trips with friends and family – to Disney, Paris, or even road trips to the cottage are things that are remembered later in life. [1,3]

2. Never learned another language

This would make all of those vacations even better by immersing us in a whole new culture.[1,3]

3. Relationship regrets

Staying in a bad romantic relationship or failing to end friendships when people have grown apart is a cause for disappointment.[1]

On the other hand, others often lament that they let their marriage breakdown, or lost touch with good friends over the years.[2,3]

4. Allowed fear to stop them from trying something.

A study conducted by the insurance company, Allianz, showed that being more adventurous was cited as a regret by a quarter of survey participants. You don’t have to jump out of a plane, but if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, go outside of your comfort zone and try it.[1,4]

5. Overlooked their health

• Did not maintain a good diet and exercise routine

As people age, diet and exercise plays an even bigger part in staying healthy and mobile.  Find the best diet for you based on your DNA, and try these 7-minute exercises starting today.

• Neglected their teeth

Dentures do not have to be your destiny. Practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist for regular checkups.[1]

• Did not use sunscreen

As we get older wrinkles begin to appear, but even worse is the danger of skin cancer. We can use what we know now to reduce our chances of the bad effects of sun exposure without sunscreen.[1]

6. Stayed in a toxic or stagnant job

You spend many hours a day at work, so if you’re working for a mean boss, or you’re not feeling challenged enough, take steps to do something about it sooner rather than later.[1]

7. Education

People often wish they had not dropped out of high school, tried harder, or had completed a college or university degree. [3]

8. Were unhappy with themselves.

Don’t sacrifice your happiness by wasting too much time being concerned about body image or looks. Realize you are more than how you look and strive to be the best you, you can be.[1]

9. Said “I love you” too rarely.

No one lives forever, and life can change in the blink of an eye. Tell people you love how you feel to avoid being sad that you missed out after they’ve gone.[1,4]

10. Didn’t listen to advice from parents.

Your parents have more life experience than you do, so while you must live your own life, it doesn’t hurt to consider their advice a little more carefully before making your decision.[1]

11. Were self-absorbed.

Take a lesson from people who report feeling embarrassed reflecting on times in their life when they only thought of themselves and never considered the feelings of others.[1]

12. Supported others while neglecting themselves.

The opposite of #11, if we spent all our time trying to help others at the expense of our own happiness this can cause feelings of regret.[1]

13. Took too long to move on from past failures.

You made mistakes along the way. Forgive yourself and move on. Wasting time being stuck in the past when you could have been living life joyfully is unproductive.[1]

14. Held a grudge.

Life is too short, especially to let years go by without speaking to a beloved family member or friend over a simple misunderstanding. Swallow your pride and be the bigger person.[1]

15. Didn’t stand up for themselves.

This one may go all the way back to the time you allowed yourself to be bullied in grade school. Don’t dwell on the past, use those lessons to make sure you assert yourself now.[1]

16. Lack of volunteering in the community.

Being involved in charities or helping those less fortunate than you are promotes a sense of purpose in life, and this opportunity should not be missed.[1]

17. Never found out their history through grandparents.

Unfortunately, some memories are gone once your loved ones pass away. Jot down or record some family stories from aging relatives to reminisce over and pass on to younger generations.[1]

18. Was a workaholic

Not only is your enjoyment of life impinged on, but family and friendships suffer too. It’s much more fulfilling to have a good work-life balance.[3]

19. Failed to stop and smell the roses.

Going through life being too serious and never knowing how to find humor in everyday life is literally no fun! [1,3]

20. Never finished what they started.

You lose the sense of accomplishment you feel after completion if you give up on everything you try without following through. Stick with it. It’s worth it.[1]

21. Got involved with the wrong group of friends.

Friends that lead you down the wrong path early in life can leave you with bad feelings or even a criminal record that follows you through your life. Choose your friends carefully.[3]

22. Parenting guilt.

Spend enough time playing with the kids and teaching them life lessons. Kids remember your presence more than your presents. [1,2,3]

23. Cared too much about what others thought.

This is a biggie. Many wish they had the self-confidence and courage to live life without trying to live up to the expectations of others. Parents, gender roles, and cultural expectations often keep us from living the life we desire. Remember this is your life to live, not theirs. [1,3]

“What other people think of me is none of my business.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt [5]

24. Spent too much time on phones and computers.

Track and limit the amount of time you spend checking email and social media. It can take away from quality time with family and friends and you can never get that lost time back.[2,3]

25. Took people for granted.

We are often the kindest to strangers and the most unkind to those we love. Remember that they may not always be around. Appreciate and express gratitude for what others do for you.  [2]

26. Didn’t trust gut instincts.

Hindsight is 20/20. Maybe you’ve had a feeling that you ignored and later it turned out you were right. Factor in your intuition when it manifests itself. [2]

27. Put off seeing their favorite band on tour.

Everyone knows bands break up, stop touring or worse, a member passes away. We often procrastinate and think we will “do that next year,” but it never happens.[1]

28. Didn’t follow their passion.

This could be related to education, career, travel, or love. Maybe instead of applying for that dream job you chose a practical job instead. Or perhaps you still regret asking that girl to the prom all those years ago and it still haunts you. Don’t always take the path of least resistance. Take a chance. Your life may not change, but you won’t be left with a bunch of “what if’s” when you look back.[2,3]

29. Lack of courage to get up and talk at a funeral, wedding or another important event.

Speaking on a special occasion is an honor. It allows us to pay our respects to the person who is being celebrated that day, and the chance to impact others who have gathered for the event. Fear of getting emotional or what other’s think may prevent someone from following through on speaking at such an event. See #4 and #23. [3]

30. Didn’t make time to visit a dying friend before he died or got too ill.

This is one regret that we can’t remedy once the person has passed away. We need to have enough foresight to make time for friends and family, especially when they are ailing.[3]

The good news is — you’re still here! Start making your bucket list now to enjoy the time you have with the ones you love before it’s too late. For further inspiration, check out some advice from this 24-year-old terminal cancer patient.