"Quinquagenarian". That's a rather weighty word used to describe people in their 50s. We were born in the era of the flower power, Beatles, and the time when our young nation was undergoing the pain of transition – from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Being brought up in the times, when TV was Doordarshan, Bollywood was Rajesh Khanna, and Gavaskar dominated cricket. Gundappa Vishwanath's legendary test victories blasted over transistors and lining up outside PCO booths to make long-distance calls; all seem a far cry from the digital world we live in today.
We are well settled, having built our dream house, sending our children off to universities to follow their careers, and waiting to reap a well-earned respite from our decades of hard work. So now, past 50, do we have regrets? And are they any different from people who are a decade older or younger than us?
Let's look at some of the biggest regrets in life that are unique to us Quinquagenarians!
1. Not spending more time with the kids
There was no time, and we were working too hard, and wish we had spent more quality time with our children. We often wish we hadn’t taken our children’s childhood for granted. On some occasions, put fun first and practicality second. Played, travelled and chilled with them just a little more are some of the common regrets we may have in life.
2. Not taking more time off to stay in touch with friends
Losing touch with friends because of busy schedules and family responsibilities is another biggie. Caught up in our lives, we sometimes found it difficult, and over the years, let some golden friendships slip by. Not giving some friendships and loved ones the time and effort that they deserved, is one of the greatest regrets in life.
3. Not being more health-conscious
Over the years, we have learnt that being strong emotionally and physically gives us the freedom to do just that little more in life. Not gymming, walking/jogging, meditating, joining that yoga class sooner, or why we adopted healthier eating habits late, all add to that biggest regrets-in-life list.
4. Not being our authentic self
"I wish I had lived my life the way I wanted to and not how others wanted me to." How often have you caught yourself thinking this one? Well, don't worry. It’s another common regret echoed by many. I wish I had been 'more myself,' more adventurous, more of a risk-taker, less of a people pleaser, less stuck in old patterns and habits, the list is endless.
The courage to live a life true to ourselves and not as others expected us to is often a regret to many, but one that can still be addressed.
5. Being unnecessarily worried and not happier
"I would have spent less time worrying about things that finally never happened. And, those that did were larger in my head than in reality." These are sentiments rated as 'the most popular' regrets that people carried forward. We know now that worrying doesn't solve many problems. However, in our youth, fear of the unexpected and fear of change just added to the anxiety.
Happiness is a choice – one of the surprisingly common regrets that we realized a little later. A conscious decision to put worry aside, be content, to laugh at life's little absurdities, to take things in our stride and just be happy.
We have probably seen the most drastic changes occur in our lives. India specifically, transitioned into an emerging superpower has witnessed the country gain dominance in international fields such as technology and engineering. Our contemporaries achieved significant success in the corporate domain worldwide, and the country in itself became a force to reckon with. Having adapted so well to the brave new world we live in today, it is evident that we still possess the firepower to overcome the root cause of any of our biggest regrets.
Let's not loom over the regrets of the past. Though we might still have the courage to rectify some, we need to let go of the others with dignity. We still have a lot to offer to the society, future generations, and most importantly to ourselves.
Taking our life too seriously rarely leads us to the ideal kind of happiness. Let's strive to find it in our hearts to have a sense of humour about even the biggest challenges that have confronted us. It’s all in the past.
Today we have as many opportunities to be happy as we ever will. So, keeping in mind Reinhold Niebuhr's famous lines, for a happy, fulfilling regret-free life ahead, let’s take that step forward.
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."
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