Source | FastCompany : By GWEN MORAN
Scrolling through my social media feed, I noticed a college friend’s photograph of his son’s dormitory. My friend and I had been thick as thieves during our undergraduate years, and now his son was leaving home, and roughly the age his father was when he and I first met.
Suddenly, I was hit with a wave of regret.
We hadn’t seen each other in years, even though we live roughly an hour apart. I don’t really know his children well, and he doesn’t know mine. Over the years, when one of us reached out to the other, we were always busy with work, soccer practices, music lessons, or other commitments. “Next time for sure,” we’d say as we postponed. At one time in our lives, I thought we’d be close pals forever and our children would carry on the next generation of our friendship. It didn’t work out that way.
With a full roster of work, family, friends, and other obligations—not to mention trying to make time to stay healthy and have an occasional moment or two alone—it can be tough to fit in all the things we want and need to do. As we try to keep all of those commitments, it’s not uncommon to form habits and take shortcuts that let us fit more into the day. We may stay at our desks longer, forego vacations, or crowd out time for family and friends.
A recent survey by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America found that roughly one-third (32%) of Americans regret major choices in their lives.
But what kind of consequences do those decisions have in the long run? Possibly big ones, experts say. Here are some key things you may be doing now that you’ll likely regret in a decade or more.
Many people have relationship regrets, whether they’re related to friends or romantic partners, says Gail Saltz, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine. The relationship road not taken is a big source of regret among people she sees. Career-focused romantic partners may find themselves either living in different areas or faced with one partner making a sacrifice to be with the other.
“Given the day and age we’re living in now, many, many people feel they shouldn’t have to do that for someone else, and so they don’t,” she says. Later, they may have the great career, but regret that they didn’t try harder to make the relationship work, she says.
While lost friendships are often considered unimportant compared to romantic partners, their loss can be just as painful and regrettable, says Neal Roese, PhD, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and author of If Only: How to Turn Regret Into Opportunity.
When you put in too many hours at work and let those friendships drift away, you’re setting yourself up for regret. Roese has coauthored several studies on regrets and their causes and says that not making time to maintain friendships is a big one, especially because it can be harder to make new deep friendships later in life. This is especially true at work, where friendships with colleagues can boost both happiness and productivity.