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Live Without Regrets: What Are the Top 5 Career Regrets?

3 minute read
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

How can you live without regrets?

To live without regrets, first you need to know what the most common ones are.

Over at Harvard Business Review, Daniel Gulati discusses his informal study of people’s biggest regrets about their career.

He talked to professionals who ranged in age and represented a variety of different industries but five ideas came up again and again:

1. I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money.

“By far the biggest regret of all came from those who opted into high-paying but ultimately dissatisfying careers.”

2. I wish I had quit earlier.

“Almost uniformly, those who had actually quit their jobs to pursue their passions wished they had done so earlier.”

3. I wish I had the confidence to start my own business.

“A recent study found that 70% of workers wished their current job would help them with starting a business in the future, yet only 15% said they had what it takes to actually venture out on their own.”

4. I wish I had used my time at school more productively.

“Although more students are attending college, many of the group’s participants wished they had thoughtfully parlayed their school years into a truly rewarding first job.”

5. I wish I had acted on my career hunches.

“Several individuals recounted windows of opportunity in their careers, or as one professional described, ‘now-or-never moments.’”

What else do we know about regret?

I’ve posted about research into the subject of regret before. So what do we regret the most?

  • You’re more likely to regret the things you didn’t do than the things you did. (The split is about 75/25.)
  • Education was the biggest inducer of regret, followed by career, romance, parenting, the self, and leisure.
  • You’re more likely to regret purchasing things. You’re more likely to regret not purchasing experiences.
  • What do people regret the most before they die?

    Bronnie Ware worked in palliative care for many years, tending to people during the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. A handful of themes cropped up in the things they regretted during their final days:

    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 didn’t work so hard.”

    3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

    4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

    5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

    To them, these were regrets. For you, this can be a checklist of what not to do.

    This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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