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Wednesday, 28 September 2011


In common with many parents at the moment I have been doing the rounds of the Universities to help my son short-list those he'd like to attend when it's time to go. I've been surprised by our reactions to some of the Universities which has ranged from 'just don't get it' to the 'wow factor'.

One such wow visit was to the University of Bath where, building on what had already been a good day, I went to the 'welcome talk', albeit that it was at the end of the day.

One of the presenters was Microsoft Vice President Neil Holloway . Now I'm no Microsoft fan and I envisaged a Microsoft skewed presentation on something or other but Neil presented a well reasoned and understated presentation on his thoughts about University life, life after University and life planning that really made me sit up and listen.

The phrase that really did it for me was 'have no regrets'. Neil qualified this in terms of how when making any decision you need to know your objective, weigh up the options and make a decision. What ever that decision is, whatever the outcome, don't regret it. I thought this was such a bold and brave or maybe even foolish statement to make. Initially I couldn't imagine not being able to make a decision without having regrets if the decision turned out to be the wrong one or didn't provide satisfactory results, but the more I thought about it the more I realised how much easier our decision making processes and lives would be if we didn't have the risk of regret behind our decisions.

I wonder if this state is really possible to achieve?

At this point, as is often the way when I write a piece like this I have taken a few days off from writing it whilst I process my thoughts in the background. I had a concern that what Neil had said in some way conflicted with 'relationships' or family life or whatever label you'd want to put on it.

In my view the answer to that question is 'no'.

The beauty of Neils point-of-view is that he talks about considering the options before a making a decision and having no regrets once you've made it. This is in pleasant contrast to those who talk about life planning as a roadmap to wealth and success but make no room for others and the considerations that must be factored in where relationships are involved.

To conclude, I'd like to thank Neil Holloway for his considered and inspiring talk but I wonder what your thoughts are on the matter. Do you have a life plan? Is it working? Do you have regrets from making decisions? Does it work for you?


  1. Hi Kevin. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I must admit that I'm not totally clear on what you're saying re life-planning re regrets. I can offer my thoughts on having regrets though if it helps.

    To me, the word regret means beating yourself up about something that you did in the past and therefore cannot change. Putting it like that potentially helps you see the lack of value in having regret and is why I agree with what Neil said. If you are a person that gives time and thought to decisions you make then you need to be kinder to yourself and if a little way down the line you realise that it wasn't the right decision, don't dwell on that. I prefer to recognise that each decision takes us on a different path in life and if I find myself down a different path than the one I anticipated then I make positive changes in the future rather than wish the past had been different.

    To me regrets should be re-named as "learning points". Far better to use the wisdom acquired from the hindsight that we now have, accept that our decisions are always what we believe to be right at the time, and then move forward positively. This way we ensure that later on in life we are not looking back regretting all the time we spent having regrets!

  2. Hi Kevin, I have made several decisions throughout life which have taken me in a completely different direction than where I had hoped they would. However, I never regret the decisions that I have made. This is because we gain new life experiences from whatever it is that we do, or what happens as a result of those decisions. Those moments in our lives are what make us as who we are.

    My point of view is that regrets are like grudges, if we store them in our heads, always feeling negative about them, they can only have a negative influence in our lives; instead we should accept them and accept that we cannot change the past and instead move forward in a positive way. This way we can concentrate on the now and the future we would like to have.

  3. There is often a moment in counselling, usually towards the end of a course, when a client realises that they have not, until now, had the courage to live a life true to themselves and instead lived a live others expected of them. For a moment I see their deep and sincere regret about lost time, unfulfilled dreams and potential not reached. It’s a sad moment.

    However, born out of deep regret comes Wisdom. Wisdom alters one’s core principles and then reason and knowledge prevail to determine new action.

    The antidote for regret is therefore transformation.

  4. Hi Kevin,

    I really like this post,and it fits in well with what I teach as an Alexander Technique teacher. FM Alexander asked his students to have a goal, to analyse the conditions, to reason out a plan that would get them to their goal, and then to carry out that plan.

    If we spend time thinking about what we want to achieve, and choose what we believe to be the best way of achieving it, the worst that we can be is wrong. And if we are wrong, then we can take steps to change our plan or our goal.

    If we actually own the decision making process, then regret doesn't even enter the equation. The worst that we can be is wrong.

  5. Thank you all for your thought provoking responses. It would appear the there are different approaches to answering or resolving this question. One teaches that from regret we learn and a similar opinion is that regrets should be re-labelled as 'learning points', another teaches an approach that we don't regret but admit that, at worst, we were wrong. If it were me in this position I don't know which of the above would apply but then maybe there is no one size fits all solution?