LONDON — Life is full of decisions. From seemingly small decisions like what to eat for dinner, to much more consequential ones such as choosing a career to pursue, we are all faced with numerous choices on a daily basis. It’s human nature to look back at the roads we didn’t take and wonder, “What if?” Yet a new survey conducted in England has revealed that a staggering amount of people are unhappy with the way they’ve lived their lives.
According to a survey of 2,000 British adults commissioned by UK charity consortium Remember A Charity, four out of ten people regret how they have lived their lives so far. Spending too much time at work and not traveling enough were among respondents’ biggest regrets.
Other common regrets among those surveyed included neglecting their health and not spending enough time with their family. Many wished they had been a better parent to their children. All of that regret seems to be a big motivator as well, with 40% of respondents claiming that they want to make some positive changes in the near future.
“All of us will die one day – none of us know when that time might come, and none of us want to have regrets about what we’ve missed out on or how we’ve lived our lives,” comments Deborah James, a founding member of You, Me and the Big C, a BBC podcast on fighting cancer, in a statement. “This research is a really interesting wake up call to get us to think about how we want to spend our time now and to lay foundations for those that come after us.”
While the survey’s findings are a bit bleak at first consideration, many believe all hope is not lost; more than half of respondents say that they know it’s not too late for them to change paths and accomplish more in life. Inaction seems to be the biggest cause of regret, with three in four adults claiming that their regret is mainly caused by things they wanted to do but never got around to.
Leaving behind a positive legacy is a major concern for many people as well. In all, two thirds of the survey’s respondents are concerned about how their children will remember them and want to use their remaining years to create lasting, positive family memories. Most of those surveyed want their families to remember them as loving, happy, caring, sociable, and talented. More specifically, three in 10 would like to be remembered as charitable, and four in 10 want their closest loved ones to remember their generosity.
However, despite most people’s desire to be remembered in a positive light, most respondents say they expect to be remembered as moody or anxious. Many added that they regret wasting so much time watching television or staring at their smartphone.
Interestingly, close to half of those surveyed said they regret focusing so much on financial success as opposed to more meaningful endeavors.
The survey was conducted by OnePoll.