Why Do Old People Regret?

Jacob Reno
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One of the most common answers is that we frequently compare ourselves to a younger version of ourselves and imagine how we could be if only our wishes had come true.

We also tend to allow ourselves to compare our lives to those of younger people we know. We imagine that our lives might be better if we were younger or if we had someone younger in our lives. We think, "If only I were twenty years younger, I could …," or, "If only I had met that person ten years earlier, then … ."

But there's also a more subtle dynamic at play, which is summed up by one of my favorite quotes by Seneca, "Wretched are they who never in their lives have wished for their own self-improvement."

We have this idea that we're not perfect the way we are in the present or the way we were in the past. So we look to the future for some sort of idealized version of ourselves, or we think that some divine inspiration or external magical being will appear and provide us with everything we need without any hard work on our part.

Either way, we're still stuck waiting for a sign from outside ourselves, looking outward for the solution to our own happiness, when the real answer is a lot closer than you think.