The key to regretting ‘rien’

Poet John Betjeman regretted not having more sex when he was young, but according to a study by Neal Roese, never learning a foreign language, marrying the wrong person and going into the wrong profession are the most common regrets today.

Philip Hodson, Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, says that most people experience a process of regret as they go through life: “You tend to start with sorrow for the missed opportunity. But then reason comes to your aid – you were making your best decision at the time, given the information available and the personality you have inherited and I think this is the key to staying out of trouble with nostalgia.”

The top five regrets are spirituality, family, romance and health, but 20-year-old Rossana Pirodi can relate to the number one regret, education, the most: “I regret not keeping up with learning Italian when I first started studying it,” she says.

“I also regret not taking my driving test when I was ready to. I wish I’d just gone for it and gotten it out of the way.”

Rossana says she doesn’t believe it when people say that they don’t have regrets and thinks that they can be a healthy part of life: “You can’t change what’s happened and I don’t think people can help wishing things were different.

“I think it’s easy to get caught up in regrets, but as long as we just treat them as learning opportunities and don’t let them overwhelm us, regrets can be a normal and useful part of life,” she says.

However, engineering manager Wayne Roberts claims he doesn’t regret any decision he’s made in 54 years: “The experiences I’ve had – whether they’ve been good or bad – have made me the person that I am today, and I am happy with who I am and where I am.

“If I had a done anything different then I wouldn’t be this person,” he says.


Most people have regrets, but learning from those experiences is key. Photo: Victor Bezrukov

Philip Hodson admits that he regrets falling out with his friend, who never forgave him, in the sixties, as well as several ‘crimes’ and minor sins. However, since his immaturity subsided, he has made many ‘adult lifetime friends’.

He advises against living in the past, and encourages people to learn from their experiences and take more of the opportunities that are offered to them: “Try to be a little more open-minded and experimental when it comes to key opportunities. Bear this in mind: the only things that really matter in life are health and family – the rest is ‘management’.

“So don’t say you “don’t like it because you’ve never tried it”. And do invest in friendships because you will need them.”

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