Retirement Regrets? I’ve had a few! Looking after our feelings and being happy.

Can we learn from others mistakes? Let’s hope so, because we only have one life – ‘It’s not a rehearsal!’ – Learning from OUR mistakes may be the best way when we are young but as we age, we find time is a limited resource and did you know eight in ten people believe their lives would be better if they had taken more risks? We apparently fritter away 110 hours a year lamenting what might have been, surely there is a better use of our valuable and limited time?

I’ve looked beyond Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing and looked back to an earlier phase of life one more pertinent to this blog – The Top Regrets of the Retired. Many will be similar and many out there on the ‘interweb’ are posted by financial institutions with a focus savings, pensions and investments etc. These are important factors to take into account and work and money are inextricably linked and although it’s true that not many on their deathbed wished they had worked harder and longer, some at least will wished they had managed their finances better in the early on so as to make their last years more comfortable. However not everyone will have the same regrets – indeed many will be contradictory – having more money in retirement will usually involve working harder and longer, possibly in a job that doesn’t suit your personality but does help pay the bills, we of course don’t just work for ourselves but a families and the ‘greater good’ so in no way am I suggesting that we can have the perfect retirement by forward planning, especially as will all live in the real world of ‘now’ and all its complications and constraints! However, like reaching for the stars and only reaching the moon should we not at least spend some time planning the TOYL and what better way than buy learning from the mistakes of others and their regrets?

There will be many more, but I have come up with the Top 12 regrets of the Retired and attempted to fit these into 4 categories which if acted on early may well help us avoid regrets later in life.

Looking after our feelings and being happy.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  3. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The others are:-

Living life in the NOW.


Planning for the future.

Looking after our feelings and being happy.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Feel the FEAR and do it anyway!

Susan Jeffers

This was the most common regret of all for the dying and many do not realise until the end that happiness is a choice but had ‘chosen’ to remain stuck in old patterns and habits, the ‘comfort’ of familiarity and fear of change stifled change.

If we always do what we always did, we will always get what we always got!

However, perspective may be rather different at the end of life and we often have to live life in a rather more pragmatic manner. As children we are led by our parents and teachers etc, sometimes too much, being pushed into careers deemed ‘good’ rather than ‘suited’ to us as individuals. Being a doctor or lawyer is great for many but not by any means all and finding and if necessary changing track through our working as well as personal lives is one of the keys to happiness, fulfilment and ultimately a retirement without regrets.

Successful people follow passions not pay checks.

With regard relationships it is often difficult to exit an unhappy marriage or even to take the actions to fix it however you owe it to yourself and your partner to be happy albeit that short term pain may precede long term contentment.

Its better to be alone and happy than unhappy with someone.

Marilyn Monroe

Lifespan is finite and too precious to waste being unnecessarily unhappy, so it is our own responsibility.

The best things in life are usually difficult, but difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

To do this it is essential to try to honour at least some of your dreams along the way because it will be too late the moment you lose your health. Most of us think we have made decisions to follow a new path but don’t take the first step and that will lead to regret.

A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action.

If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.

Anthony Robins.


2. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppress their true feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settle for a mediocre existence and never become who they were truly capable of being.

Worse still some will develop psychological as well as physical illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life, it’s a win:win!


Regret not taking the plunge in a romance?

“To love is to risk. Therefore, to love is to be brave.”


“We’re very bad judges of how we felt in the past, and how we’ll feel in the future. The only way to be happy is to judge how you are feeling right now. So, stop allowing your past to control the present. You could join a dating app, but first talk to friends who have successfully built a new relationship later on in their lives and ask how they did it.”


3. I wish that I had let myself be happier.


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

Mark Twain

The good news for most of us at the age that we are thinking about or actually planning our retirements is the ‘Wellbeing U-curve’ which tells us that we get happier as we get older. According to the research as we leave our late 40s/early 50s we start to shed the pressures that we put on ourselves in trying to prove ourselves to others. We shed ambition for ambition’s sake, accept the vagaries of life, and appreciate what we have. For more detailed information have a look and read The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After Midlife by Jonathan Rauch

Knowing that you are entering the happiest phase of life in retirement is all the more reason to make it the best it can be.

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