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The Top 7 Regrets People Have in Life

by Sammy Nickalls

What will your regrets be when you’re on your deathbed?

This is easily one of the most scary, sad questions you can possibly ask yourself, but it’s a common one. After all, we want to live our lives to the fullest, and at the end, we don’t want to look back and wish there was something we hadn’t done—or something we had.

But this question doesn’t have to be scary and sad. Thinking about your potential regrets is a way to make sure you are living it up, while you can! But in order to do that, you have to ask yourself—what will you regret doing, or not doing, when you’re old and gray?


Researchers at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University sought to answer that question. According to their research, regrets about something you’ve done tend to fade much faster than regrets about something you haven’t done—and regret is most intense when there is still the opportunity to go back and fix it.

But what do most people regret? The researchers surveyed 370 American adults about their biggest regrets, and they mostly fell into one of seven categories. Perhaps one or two of these will hit home for you.

What Are The Biggest Regrets People Have?

7. Poor health

Your body is your temple. Six percent of responders cited health as their top regret. Whether they didn’t eat enough apples to keep the doctor away or they didn’t exercise enough, their choices negatively impacted their health and became their biggest regret. After all, if you treat your body well, you’ll have much more time to keep on living to the fullest!

Related: Healthy Living Tips – 9 Ways to Stay Healthy as You Age

6. Parenting mistakes

Home is where the heart is. Nine percent of responders claimed that their biggest regret was in the area of parenting. A frequent regret researchers heard was that participants wished they had worked less and spent more time at home with their kids.

Think on it now—are you spending enough time with your kids so that you’ll be able to avoid this regret in the future?

5. Money issues

It’s hard to be money-smart. Whether they spent too much on frivolities, they invested in the wrong areas, or they didn’t create a money plan, ten percent of responders wished they had been better with their money. Make a plan for yourself and be careful, but not a cheapskate, and you’ll be able to avoid this baddie.

Related: 7 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances

4. Career

Where you spend 9 to 5 is important. Twelve percent of participants claimed that if they could change anything, it would be their career—whether they wished they had gone for their dream job or just gone down a different road entirely. As we at Inspiyr always say, following your dreams can never hurt.

3. Education

At 13%, education was in the top three of biggest regrets. Whether participants wished they had pursued a different major or that they had stayed in school in general, participants wished they had made education more of a priority. If you find yourself nodding in agreement, give your brain the enrichment it needs, and you’ll be able to avoid this one. Remember, it’s never too late to go back to school—take a few night classes!

Related: 10 Winning Beliefs that Can Change Your Life

2. Family issues

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Perhaps that’s why 16% of participants cited family issues as their biggest regret. Arguments between relatives or being cruel to a sibling in their youth were just examples. Though it can be difficult, remember that anger will bring you nothing but strife—and forgiveness will help you avoid regret in the future.

1. Romance

The biggest regret: love. Almost 20% of participants listed an issue of love as their biggest regret. Whether it’s love lost or love never had, romance is at the top of the list. Think about that special someone you love most, and whether you’ll regret it if you don’t chase after him or her.

Related: 5 Steps to Attracting Your Perfect Partner

The Takeaway

Thinking about your potential regrets is not meant to be a depressing guilt trip, but rather, a reminder to make sure you’re living to the fullest every single day. Whether health, parenting, money, career, education, family, or romance is most important to you, figure out what you think you need to fix now, so that you’ll live a life you can be proud of!


sammy nickallsSammy Nickalls is the Content Manager at She is an avid health nut and a lover of all things avocado. Follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

Photo by Jason A. Howie

Originally published 12/13 and updated 11/14.

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