40 Regrets You Don’t Want to Have in 40 Years

40 Regrets You Don't Want to Have in 40 Years

Stop wasting time regretting what you did a year ago.  Start doing what you have to do now, so that in a year’s time you won’t regret what you did today.

This morning, like he has every morning for the last decade, my 86-year-old grandfather picked a fresh wild flower on his morning walk and took it to my grandmother.  This morning I decided to go with him to see her.  And as he placed the flower on her gravestone, he looked at me and said, “I just wish I had picked her a fresh flower every morning when she was alive.  She would have loved that.”

As you can imagine, his words touched a nerve in me.  I almost immediately started thinking about everything and everyone I care about, and what I don’t want to regret in 40 years when I’m on the cusp of my 80’s.  It almost felt like every aspect of my life was flashing before my eyes.  And as soon as I got home, I started jotting down everything that had come to mind.  When I was done, I read the list to Angel.  She nodded her head all the way through to the end, and then said, “I couldn’t agree more.  I don’t think anyone wants to regret any of those things when they’re older.”  Perhaps you will also agree…

  1. Spending too little time with the right people. – Sooner or later, you just want to be around the people who make you smile.  So today, spend time with those who help you love yourself more.  And remember, the people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow.  Never be too busy to make time for those who matter most.
  2. Not making your loved ones smile more often. – The most beautiful thing is to see a person you love smile, and even more beautiful is knowing that you are the reason behind it.
  3. Not saying what you need to say. – Speak up.  Don’t hide your thoughts and feelings, especially when you can make a difference.  Be brave.  Say what needs to be said.  If you care about someone, tell them.  Hearts are sometimes broken by the words we leave unspoken.
  4. Constantly comparing yourself to everyone else. – Don’t compare your progress in life with that of others.  We all need our own time to travel our own distance.  It’s perfectly OK to be different.  Today, the only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.  Prove yourself to yourself, not others.
  5. Ignoring your intuition for too long. – Sometimes your mind needs more time to accept what your heart already knows.  Breathe.  Be a witness, not a judge.  Listen to your intuition.
  6. Not taking action on meaningful goals. – Instead of complaining about your circumstances, get busy creating new ones.  You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.  Most of the time, the only difference between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do.  (Read Getting Things Done.)
  7. Letting others talk you out of your dreams. – Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?  Stop living for other people and their opinions.  Be true to YOU.
  8. Vivid memories of wasted time. – There is good reason why you should wake each morning and mindfully consider what and who you will give your day to.  Because unlike other things in life – love, money, respect, good health, hope, opportunities, and many more – time is the one thing you can never get back once it’s gone.
  9. Collecting more excuses than you can count. – If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way.  If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
  10. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting until you’re ready. – Sometimes life seems hard, but we often make it harder than it is.  All you ever have to decide is what to do next. It really is this simple.  You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.  Just do the best you can until you know better.  Once you know better, do better.
  11. Not putting in enough effort. – In life you are either a passenger or a pilot, it’s your choice.  If you want something, work for it.  Do what it takes, not what is easy.  It will hurt.  It will take time.  It will require dedication.  It will require willpower.  You will need to make healthy decisions.  It requires sacrifice.  You will need to push your body to its max.  There will be temptation.  But, I promise you, when you reach your goal, it will be worth it.
  12. Letting solvable problems stop you. – Not everything that’s faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.  Problems are not stop signs, they’re guidelines.  If you want it, work for it.  It’s that simple.  Strength doesn’t come from what you can do.  It comes from overcoming the things you couldn’t.
  13. Not taking on enough risk. – Wouldn’t you rather have a life of “OH WELLs” than a life of “WHAT IFs”?  Do what you can while you can.  Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone.  Some of my best life experiences and opportunities came to me only after I dared to lose.
  14. Settling for less than you are capable of. – Remember, growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.
  15. Putting your own needs and happiness on the back burner. – All jokes aside, your life only comes around once.  This is IT.  So do what makes you happy and be with whoever makes you laugh, often.
  16. Letting impatience govern your decisions and actions. – Patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.
  17. Giving up too soon. – Forget how many times you’ve broken down.  It’s about how you stand up and move on.  You may have to go through the worst, to get to the best.  Good things take time.  Stay patient and stay positive.  Everything is going to come together; maybe not immediately, but eventually.
  18. Letting someone walk all over you, ad infinitum. – Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.  And walk away from anyone who continually robs you of peace and joy.  Life is too short to waste your time with people who abuse and bully you.
  19. Not helping others when you were able. – If you have a lot, give your wealth.  If you have a little, give your heart.  Just give what you can.  No one has ever become poor by giving.
  20. Ignoring your roots and those who have supported you. – Never forget where you’ve been.  Never lose sight of where you’re going.  And never take for granted the people who travel the journey with you.
  21. Not appreciating what you have when you have it. – We often forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but of deeply appreciating what we do have.  No, you won’t always get exactly what you want.  But remember this: There are lots of people who will never have what you have right now.  (Read The Happiness Project.)
  22. Letting your health go. – Your body is the only place you will truly ever live.  If you’re lucky enough to have a body that’s in good health, be wise enough to keep it that way.
  23. Years of struggling to find happiness outside yourself. – Happiness is not determined by what’s happening around you, but rather what’s happening inside you.  Too many people depend on others, or outside sources, to gain happiness, but the truth is it always comes from within.
  24. Letting too many plans blind you from the beauty of now. – When life is good, enjoy it.  Don’t go looking for something better.  Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have.  You must be willing to loosen your grip on the life you have planned so you can enjoy the life that is waiting for you now.
  25. Being too narrow-minded to see the opportunities given to you. – Sometimes life doesn’t give you what you WANT because you NEED something else.  And what you need often comes when you’re not looking for it.
  26. The limitations you put on yourself. – It’s often our own thinking that hurts us.  There’s no reason to imprison yourself.  Don’t think outside the box.  Think like there is no box.
  27. Letting negativity get the best of you. – Remember, true strength is when you have so much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to smile and appreciate your life instead.
  28. Never admitting and growing beyond your mistakes. – You can learn great things from your mistakes when you aren’t busy denying them.
  29. Not accepting responsibility for life changes you need to make. – If you’ve been asking the same questions for a long time, yet are still stuck, it’s probably not that you haven’t been given the answers, but that you don’t like the answers you were given.  Remember, it takes a great deal of courage to admit that something needs to change, and a lot more courage still, to accept the responsibility for making the change happen.
  30. Seeking too much validation from others. – You are GOOD enough, SMART enough, FINE enough, and STRONG enough.  You don’t need other people to validate you; you’re already valuable.  You are YOU and that’s the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.
  31. Impressing the wrong people. – Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them.  You have to figure out who’s worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you.  Spend more time with those who make you smile and less time with those who you constantly feel pressured to impress.
  32. Time spent on drama and needless arguments. – Life is too short to argue and fight.  Count your blessings, value the people who matter and move on from the drama with your head held high.
  33. Letting a grudge hurt your happiness. – Let it go.  Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness.  Holding one is like letting unwanted company live rent free in your head.
  34. Endlessly worrying about things. – Move on.  Stop letting it bother you.  If a problem can be solved, there’s nothing to worry about.  If it can’t be solved, worrying is useless.
  35. Forcing what’s not meant to be. – Never force anything.  Do your best, then let it be.  If it’s meant to be, it will be.  Don’t hold yourself down with things you can’t control.  Sometimes you have to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting.  Have faith that things will work out, maybe not how you planned, but just how it’s meant to be.
  36. Getting stuck in the trap of consumerism. – Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t need, to impress folks they don’t even know.  Don’t be one of them.  (Read The Total Money Makeover.)
  37. Never traveling when you had the chance. – Once a year, go somewhere you’ve never been before.
  38. Not choosing to laugh at life more often. – Life is way better when you’re laughing.  Being positive in a negative situation is not naive, it’s a sign of leadership and strength.
  39. Resisting change instead of rolling with it. – You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  You’re always growing.  Experiences don’t stop.  That’s life.
  40. Talking the talk, but never walking the walk. – When it’s all said and done, be sure you haven’t said more than you’ve done.  In the end, actions always speak louder than words.  So work hard in silence, and let your success be your noise.


If you’re struggling with any of these points, know that you are not alone.  Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and live a life free of regrets.  This is precisely why Angel and I wrote our book, 1,000 Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently.”  It’s filled with short, concise tips on how to do just that.  And believe it or not, Angel and I review a lot of our own material on a regular basis too, just to center our minds on these positive principles.

The bottom line is that it’s never too late to take a step in the right direction.  It’s never too late to become the person you are capable of being.  Things can change if you want them to, at any age.  Right now you have an opportunity to write yourself a future full of peace and free of regret.

Your turn…

Let’s flip the concept of this article around.  Instead of sharing something you don’t want to regret down the road, tell me this:

What have you done lately that you know you will NOT regret down the road?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.

Photo by: Hartwig HKD


  1. says

    @Dev: It brings a smile to my face to know that we were able to play a part and bring you and your friend together. Thank you for sharing. I am sure you made her day! =)

    @Glenn: It’s never too late to enjoy another beautiful day. Thank you for giving it a chance and a smile. =)

    @Sandesh: So glad to read your comment and get to know you better. Thank you for sharing your story.

    @Masudul Hansan: Congratulations! What an exciting moment.

    @All: As always, my heart is filled with joy and happiness after reading all these positive comments. Each and every one of you continues to inspire us. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  2. BRC says

    I will not regret giving up my partying ways, dropping “friends” who don’t stick around for the hard times, giving up Facebook, focusing on school and finally graduating, and putting 100% into my marriage again. But most of all, we shocked our family and friends to announce that we are moving out of state soon. My husband has been extremely unhappy with his business for over 5 years, and we are done with our current “keeping up with the Joneses” lifestyle. We are moving out of state for a financially secured future, in a family-focused, not so “Housewives of the O.C.” community. All these things I listed have been done in the past year and a half, and I feel like it has been a type of spiritual/mind cleansing. For the past 6 months I have prayed that things fall into place if they are meant to be with our move, and things are going better than we could imagine. Thank you Marc and Angel for this blog. It has been inspirational.

  3. says

    Oh, that image of your grandfather picking a fresh flower for your grandmother every day really hit home. Goosebumps. And made me realize how important it is to make time for those little things today – not tomorrow.

    Something I won’t regret is allowing myself to start writing. (I was super scared + started *blogging* behind an “under construction” screen as I was too afraid to share my shaky *I haven’t found my voice yet!* writing with the world. Seriously.) I’ve been blogging for about 3 years now and I love the writing process more than I can tell. So glad I allowed myself those messy beginnings :)

  4. Remi says

    What a post! Thanks Marc. And thanks also for the contribution of everyone. The comments are all great and means a lot to me.

    I accepted a new challenge. To go work in another country, moving alone. I’ll be out of my comfort zone and i know i will struggle sometimes, but overall, i will grow in this experience, personally and professionally. So this is one thing i know i will not regret.

    Another thing that i have done lately is to take time for me, invest in me to try to understand who i am. I was doing #23 above (struggling to find happiness outside of me). Now i know that it is all inside of me. I’m not there yet, but i am more and more happy. Meditation and yoga help me a lot. So i definetely don’t regret that decision to take care of me.

    And lastly, i need to do more of #19 (helping others when you were able). Most of us are relentlessly pursuing selfish ambition, but this is a dead end. I took the following sentence from the blog “becoming minimalist” to illustrate the way of life i’m promoting: “Our lives are going to find lasting significance in how we choose to live them… and how we enable others to live theirs”.

    Happy life to all!

  5. says

    I will never regret leaving the Bay Area (where I was born & raised) & my corporate job for the Sierra foothills & a simpler life.

    When I finally realized the place I knew & loved only existed in my memories due to the influx of people & money is when I accepted it was okay to move on. This has been one of the best life decisions yet. Each day is a new adventure/struggle (depending on the moment) & I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Thanks for the encouraging words.
    Cheers ~ Erica

  6. Rhonda Allan says

    I will not regret giving up a rewarding career in nursing to help my oldest daughter by babysitting her two small sons! I love my grandsons’s enthusiasm and exuberance! They keep me on my toes, but keep me young at the same time!

  7. says

    I decovered your blog today and opened this post because of the wonderful photography. Your list is complete and I sign every point of it. Most of these things, we know them inside ourselves, but we do most of the times, forget them, forget to live our life.
    Thanks for this list.
    Have a nice day,

  8. Louise says

    This week I had to give up breastfeeding my tongue-tied son. I won’t regret the months of hour long feeds, cracked nipples and expressing. I won’t regret switching to formula. I won’t regret these things because I I’ll know did everything I could to do the thing that was best for my baby.

    • Bronze says

      Gosh, this is coming so late in your struggle, but as one “failed’ mum to another, when it comes to breast feeding, I know exactly how you feel. Also, as a mum much further along the path than you, I can assure you that children can thrive even from a not so perfect beginning in life. My son nearly died at 13 days old and I had so many trials to breast feed him only to have to give up when he was 6 months old due to another pregnancy. These seemingly, monumentally life influencing happenings, have had no negative impatct that I can discern in how he is turning out as a man, who is now studying, working, supporting himself and is endlessly kind and wise. Don’t worry how many months you managed to breast feed – worry about how many months you paid attention and gave unadulterated love. That is where the difference lies in my experience. Good luck.

  9. Karin says

    Last Sunday i went for a not planned visit.
    I’ve visited the home country of my parents.

    There I’ve sat close to my aunt, suffering from a stroke , we coudn’t really communicate, she can’t move or talk. So i told her the news about my family and me. She listened and nodded a little.
    I left the care unit crying.

    The next stop was at another aunt.
    She’s suffering Alzheimer and lives now in a small Waldorf care unit.
    Although she recognized me and we could talk a while, I felt the loss of her personality very deeply
    I left the House crying.

    And then, the hardest visit, at my 81 years old uncle, who had to bring his wife after 52 years of living together, into the Alzheimer care.
    We could talk and laugh and he told stories from when he was young. And i felt so deep und intense love for the last old member of a once very large family.
    I left his house crying.

    I’ve been crying a lot lately, this last Sunday, but it made me happy as well, seeing all my old family members. I know I won’t regret it.

    I hope people come and visit me when I’m old and need friendly company.

    Thank you for the post !

  10. Thai says

    This is really inspiring, I’m currently living with regret in my early 30’s. I’m a single mom of a teenage son, still trying to finish school and enter into a career I will love to do, instead of the miserable job I’m on currently. I always wanted to travel and regret that I’m not doing so in my early 30’s I don’t want to wait until I’m too old, but unfortunately it seems I may have to, if I don’t get my finances in order. Somethings are just much easier said then done.

    Slowly pushing through…

  11. Kay says

    I retired a year early and moved across the US to be near my sister while she was dying of colon cancer. My wonderful husband told me “You’ll never have a second chance to do this. We’re going NOW.” She and I had never lived near one another in our adult lives, and we had time to share some fun and mischief during the 17 months we had together.

  12. says

    This was an awesome post. I did T25 this morning to keep fit. I also took an aerial dance class which was way out of my comfort zone. I loved it.

  13. Marlene says

    I will not regret starting my very own theater company while maintaining a healthy relationship with the people that truly matter to me, especially my boyfriend.

    I will not regret attending that theater conservatory and growing as an artist.

    I will not regret giving affection and saying “I love you” to my boyfriend and my family every single day.

  14. says

    Thank you. I needed this! For too long I’ve put off living due to regrets. This will be the start of a new life. We never know how long we will have to say/do things ee need. Happiness is to share! I will finish 2 books started years ago; and more. Thanks again. And, I will read more of your & Angel’s work!

  15. Tom says

    My parents live in a city 200 miles away. For the past several years, whenever I come to town on business, I’ve stayed at their house instead of getting a hotel room. My mother passed away unexpectedly last year, and my Dad is now suffering from Alzheimer’s. I’m so grateful for the evenings and mornings we spent together talking over dinner or breakfast.

  16. Deanna says

    I will not regret taking a challenge from my friend, Stephanie Jones, (1makingadifference.blogspot.com) to make a difference to someone everyday for 365 days. I am currently on day 334 and loving it! It has changed my life.

  17. Greg says

    When I read this, it reminded me of a quote by Robin Sharma in the movie Finding Joe that really struck a chord: “No matter how long you get to live, life is ultimately very short. And before all of us know, we’re going to be dust. And the street sweeper gets buried next to the CEO. And all that really matters at the end of the day is how big we showed up and how courageous we were. And I think when we are on our death bed, what fills our heart with the greatest regret is not all the risks we took and not all the opportunities we seized and not all the times we went out on a limb and looked silly. What fills our heart with the greatest regret at the end of our life is all the risks we didn’t take and all the opportunities we didn’t seize.”

  18. lynne Mantz says

    This should me a daily missal for every person on this earth of ours in every language. Thank you. It’s an excellent excellent guide for all : )

  19. Alicia says

    I have traveled to 28 different countries in our beautiful world. I have likely spent the money that most people usually save for retirement, but I don’t regret one dime. There is nothing more wonderful than experiencing people, sights and cultures around the world! As an ER nurse, I know all too well that life can end in the least expected moment. I want to die with the least regrets possible!

    I also do not regret letting go of two “friends” in the past six months who repeatedly reminded me how unsuccessful, insignificant and hopeless I was…at least in their minds. A hurdle to overcome and a lesson in self -confidence. Thankful for words like yours to remind me that I matter!

  20. ESERU says

    I am really struggling with regrets. LOTS of them. I also lost my positivity due to my past decisions, but I know in myself that that won’t do any good to me. So, I need to help myself. I know it won’t be easy but I know I’ll get through it somehow. And..because of this, I became more determined to get past through all that shit I’ve been through. Life is short. I gotta get the best out of it. Instead of complaining and rambling about the “what ifs” and “what could have beens” of my life, I will start making new moments and be happy again.

    Thank you for this push. It meant a lot.

  21. Rich says

    Just did number 3 yesterday. Told my friend I had feelings for her and couldn’t deal with just being friends any longer. Cost me a friendship probably, but we’re only here for a minute. You can sit on the sidelines or always wonder “what if”. I will not be on my deathbed wondering and regretting. Who knows if she’ll change her mind in my favor..?

  22. Zeta Amine says

    I have never regretted saying “no” when involved in an unsuitable relationship, at the appropriate time before it gets too late.

  23. Sara says

    I do not regret becoming a nurse. I struggle with it because it is a stressful, demanding job but at the end of it all I know I have helped people. I have saved lives, comforted the dying, made children smile, and chatted with the lonely. My life will ultimately be fuller because of those I have cared for.

  24. says

    So many of us fit into one or more of these categories – I see myself in several. Certainly a lot of food for thought.

    I will not regret my recent trip to Illinois to see my baby sister. The years are flying by an we r getting older and it was soooo good spending some girl time with her.

  25. Amber says

    I will NOT regret that I am finally living my life for me and doing what makes me happy and not what others want for me.

  26. R says

    Sorry, I commented in haste yesterday and missed the question at the end of your post. I regret that. :-)

    It’s a difficult question for me either way, though. On the one hand, the regrets are so infinitely many, so huge, so irreparable–where would I even begin? On the other hand, if I try to think of things I’ve done that I don’t or won’t regret … I pretty much come up empty.

    I guess I won’t regret bringing home a couple of books I thought loved ones would like yesterday, or saying a kind word to a co-worker. As far as the big things go, my life is shot, but one can still do a small kindness now and then.

  27. Toni Carthan says

    As I was thinking of the things I don’t regret: I don’t regret taking care of my mom the final years of her life. I’d do it again if I could. I don’t regret having my two sons, although I see some of my not so good traits in them. I suddenly realized I’ve been operating from far too much a negative place inside of me because my life hasn’t turned out so far, like I thought or wanted. I admit . When I was younger (57 now) I didn’t have a clear picture of what I. Wanted or needed but I know how my life it some what disappointing. However I realized I don’t regret BEING ME! This is huge for me to say and believe it! I am the only piece like me in this puzzle of the universe; i am a part of history and the future that only I can fill my spot flaws and all. I don’t regret being me. Thank you for your posts and leading me to this
    Wonderful realization and truth!

  28. Ahlam Noaman says

    Every point is worth paying attention to!! Its is huge mix of humanity and personal interests.
    Thank you so much!

  29. Karen says

    I will never regret moving back to Michigan this past May. I lived in San Diego for 11 months and realized that I needed to get home and spend time with my father who I never had a relationship with up until about 2 years ago. My mom passed away over 7 years ago and I didn’t want to miss out on the moments shared with my dad after so many years, not knowing how much time that I will have with him while he is still here. This brings me much peace.

  30. Kathie says

    I found your website truly inspiring and uplifting. After being with my company for 6 years. I decided to resign. It is the best decision I could have ever made. Even though i loved my job. The people and company i worked for were very toxic. I was getting harassed almost on a daily basis. I would go home after work worrying if i did everything i was suppose to do. Because i knew if i forgot one little thing i would find a not so nice email or note. I wasn’t even allowed to be sick or have a day off. That is no way to work. And even though i don’t have a job lined up. I know that i will find another one. It is better to live a happy joyful blessed life then to live with stress worry and people putting you down. My husband is currently located in Mexico and since resigning i will be moving there. I am so exciting to be starting this new journey in my life.

  31. says

    I have just stumbled on this post when i was low. I started a blog a month ago and it has not been doing well. I almost gave up, but this article has dissuaded me. I will not allow people or things to talk me out of my dreams; i will stop settling for less than i am capable of, and i will start putting in effort that will correspond to the place i want to be 10 years from now. Thanks lots.

  32. shri says

    I have a question. I have wanted to do something for sometime now and when was given the chance to apply for it, got scared and didn’t go for it. Then I was given the opportunity to do something similar but was unable to focus on it because my regrets from not applying to what I wanted were getting in the way. I was given the opportunity to try for the the thing that I regretted not taking but now I am regretting giving up what I had to go for it. What should I do..? (if that even makes sense)

  33. Elle says

    Of the 40 items on that list, I am actively living at least half. Items 18, 15, and 29 are at the root of my disfunction. #18 in particular is the key I believe. Thank you for this article. It has given me clarity and helped me employ the courage to move forward. Also – thank you for the challenge question. My first instinct was to share this with others. However, I realize I have to help myself first and live my truth before I can testify to anyone else.

  34. says

    I love your article. Very touching, almost in tears. Life is so precious and your words are very inspiring. I will continue reading it over and over again. Thank you, so much!

  35. says

    I often wonder why my life seems to be so full. I don’t have everything but I have a life that is just so full. Having read your article I now understand more of why my life is the way it is. Every morning I get up and can’t wait to get going and see what the day is going to bring. I am always cheering up the miserable, smiling at people I don’t know, caring about people who don’t even think of me (sometimes they do but not as often), and looking all around me and this fantastic world. No drink, no drugs, no smoking. I just love life.

  36. Nichole says

    I will never regret staying in my marriage through all the hard times, we’ve been through more than our fair share. After 12 years of marriage I’m even more in love with my husband now then in the beginning. My life wouldn’t be as amazing without him. It’s been really hard at times but that’s never going to be regretted either because all our mistakes have brought us closer then most people ever are lucky enough to experience. I’ve found my soul mate and I’m glad that I was blessed enough to have unconditional love. Too many people give up, the advice I can give is to remember why you fell in love with someone and hold onto that and encourage and love that person through the hard times. Help them to become a better version of their selves and uplift them even when you feel they don’t deserve it. My husband was worth fighting for in my eyes and so I did and will forever be grateful I did.

  37. says

    Jumping in with both feet & starting my Rodan & Fields Business. I’ve never been a person who later wants to say “what if/what would have been?” Thank you for this article, much enjoyed :)

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