Part Of The Series “Brave Up For A Better Life”
I’ve spent 11 years now focused on career coaching, teaching and training, helping mid-career professionals “dig deep, discover their right work, and illuminate the world with it.” I’ve seen several core themes emerge around what makes mid-career professionals (and middle-aged people in general) feel the deepest regret.
Below are the top five regrets I’ve heard from mid-career professionals around the world:
1. I wish I hadn’t listened to other people about what I should study and pursue.
Many people believe that when you reach 40, you’ll certainly be living your own life, and making your own authentic choices. Sadly, I’ve found that it isn’t necessarily true. So many thousands of people around the world feel deep regret and pain because they’re actually living someone else’s life – not their own. Most typically, they’re living a life their parents told them to live, and engaging in careers their authority figures demanded or strongly encouraged they pursue.
I’ve heard from so many people aged 40-60 who now realize they’re in the completely wrong career, pursuing the wrong goals, because they studied in college what their parents and authority figures told them was the right thing, for security, stability and status. They also admit that there was a some unconscious or “hidden” cultural mandate they somehow felt, to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect, etc., for the recognition and status that their parents thought would be achieved in these fields. The reality is that these professionals didn’t muster the courage to change directions, or say “No, I don’t want this!” And now many years have passed and they’re still not living life as they want to.
To live a happy, rewarding life on your own terms, it’s critical to starting saying “yes” to your authentic beliefs and values, and stop living someone else’s life that feels so wrong, even if it’s the one your beloved parents wanted for you.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard and missed out on so much.
So many men and women in middle age share that they regret what they’ve missed out on in life, by working so hard. They missed being in the fabric of their children’s lives. Or they missed the chance to have children. They missed the opportunity to build true intimacy and closeness with their spouses, family and friends. They missed experiencing adventure, travel, enjoyment, vitality, learning, spiritual growth – not having the chance to stop and relish life, nature, good health, peace, or relaxation. They missed so much and sacrificed so much to pursue work goals that now feel meaningless and empty.
I’ve seen that too that when people get to the end of their lives – in their 80s and 90s — they’re not thinking at all about the work goals they strived so hard to achieve. They’re thinking about love and family, about the people that matter deeply to them, and how they made a difference to these people. And they deeply regret what they didn’t do with and for these loved ones.