How to Live Without Regrets

Life is hard for all of us. We all make mistakes and have things we wish we’d done differently. As you get older, you might find you have some regrets about your past. These regrets can weigh you down and decrease your happiness and satisfaction with life. But even after knowing this, many seniors struggle to let go of regrets. Here is your guide to what people regret, why you have regrets, and what you can do to let them go. 


What Do People Regret?

One study asked a group of over 100 retired people what they would do differently if they could live life over again. The thing people said they regretted most? Not getting more education. The men said they would have spent more time furthering their education, and women said they wished they’d spent more time developing their minds and intellect.


Other studies also found the thing people regretted most was a lack of education. Other common regrets included disappointing careers, missed romantic opportunities, and parenting decisions.


Why Do People Have Regrets?


Unsurprisingly, people who spend a lot of time thinking about their regrets are often unhappier and less satisfied with their lives (source). We can all probably agree that in general, regrets aren’t something we want to have or feel very good about. So why do we have regrets? Why is it so hard to just let some things go? 


In some ways, regret can help us. For example, if you fail a test, you may regret not studying harder. So, you might use that regret to motivate you to study more next time. 


However, as a senior, your regrets might be about things you can no longer change. If you are retired, regretting your career choice might not help you very much. Regretting the parenting mistakes you think you made isn’t very helpful if your children are adults–it’s a little too late to try a new potty training technique! These types of regrets aren’t very constructive when you don’t always get a second chance,.


How Do I Let Go of My Regrets?

While it is difficult to let go of your regrets, it’s far from impossible. You might start simply by journaling or talking things through with a friend. When you acknowledge your regrets, realize that you are only human, and see that your mistakes are in the past, you might be able to take a deep breath and begin to move on. Other regrets might be harder to shake. Here are some things to try for those deeper regrets.

  • If you regret not getting more education, it’s not too late to learn new things now! You could enroll in a course or two at your local college (many offer free classes for seniors!), take a class online, check out your local library or community center, learn a new language through an app, or try your hand at an activity offered at your senior living community.
  • If you regret your career choices, try to remember the reasons behind those choices. Maybe you needed to support your family, and you didn’t have a lot of career options at the time. Perhaps you had idealized the line of work you chose, and were disappointed when you actually started the job. Give yourself some grace. You couldn’t know the future. If you entered into your profession with good intentions and did your best, you can try to look back on your career choices with love and understanding, rather than regret. 
  • If you regret some of your parenting choices, it’s not too late to apologize to your kids! Let them know you love them and didn’t intend to cause any harm. If they’re parents themselves now, they probably understand and have already forgiven you. Even if your children don’t accept your apology, you can let those regrets go knowing you have done your part in making things right. You could even try to (gently and tactfully) share some of your regrets with your children to help them with their own parenting choices.


You Have Done Enough!

Regrets that you can apologize for and try to resolve are regrets you can let go of. Those regrets that can’t be helped? You can work toward releasing them with the help of some grace and understanding for your past self. Some serious and deep-seated regrets might require counseling or therapy to resolve.


You don’t have to live with regrets. Stellar Living hopes this helps you move past the things you wish you could have changed, and move on to a happier future.