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Turn Back Time

The clocks go back on 31 October 2021

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore our understanding of how to handle regrets and missed opportunities.

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: you may wish to think of a suitable personal anecdote to share in the ‘Assembly’, Step 3.


  1. Explain that in the early hours of Sunday 31 October, we will be able to turn back time because it will be the end of British Summer Time. The clocks go back, and we gain an extra hour. Most of us will probably spend it in bed, having a longer lie-in!

  2. Ask the students, ‘Have you ever wished that you could turn back time for real?’

    You may wish to encourage direct answers or allow time for discussion in groups.

  3. Point out that sometimes, we might wish that we could turn back time because we regret a choice that we’ve made, something that we’ve said or an opportunity that we didn’t take. It could be that we wish to turn back time for as little as an hour. We might like to go back to a totally different part of our lives.

    Optional: you may wish to share a personal anecdote to illustrate this.

  4. Regret is a frustrating feeling. It’s like losing a precious item, something that we held in our hand, but now is gone forever. It’s like the helium-filled balloon that a young child lets go of accidentally and has to watch disappear into the clouds.

    That’s the problem with time: it can’t be restored. It’s not like rebooting a computer to return to where we were. We know that the future will go in one direction whereas it might have gone in another. A relationship may have been ruined, an opportunity missed, the good times may be past and gone, and we regret the fact that this is so. So, how can we avoid it happening?

Time for reflection

A key to avoiding regret is to learn to recognize the right time. This might mean looking ahead to deadlines and times of opportunity. We can create the best time for a decision by planning ahead and having everything ready that we need.

Sometimes, however, the right time arrives suddenly, surprisingly, and we have to seize the chance. This takes courage and we may experience some mistakes, which we will consider in a moment.

Finally, it’s important to recognize the times when we are less well-equipped to take spontaneous decisions, such as when we’re tired, angry or feeling emotional. We can then delay the words that we’re tempted to say, the actions that we’re tempted to take and the choices that we’re tempted to make.

We must beware knee-jerk reactions! When we recognize the right time, we should avoid rushing into action. Let’s take some time out, run through the options and maybe discuss things with a trusted friend before we go for it. However, we mustn’t delay for too long. Time can easily slip through our fingers.

Of course, there will be times when the decision that we take is wrong, the opportunity is missed or the ill-chosen words slip out. What can we do to avoid some of the regret? Let’s think about the concept of second chances.

For example, in a relationship, if we quickly admit our error, apologize for whatever we said or did and try to make up for it, sometimes, we can start again. Of course, this does depend on how gracious the other person is.

If an opportunity has been missed, it can make us more alert to the next opportunity and to ensuring that we get it right the next time.

Sometimes, however, situations cannot be changed or redeemed. In these cases, it’s important to consider whether we will dwell on our regrets or whether we will dust ourselves down and look ahead.

We can find a couple of suggestions in the world of music. There is a classic song by the French singer, Edith Piaf, called, ‘Je ne regrette rien’ (which translates as ‘I regret nothing’) and Frank Sinatra’s famous song ‘My way’ contains the lyrics, ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few / But then again, too few to mention’.

The main thing is to move forward. We can’t change the past, but we can put things in place that will hopefully help us to make better decisions in future.

Sometimes, it can be good to discuss our regrets with a trusted friend or an older person who can supply some perspective. We can’t turn back time, but we can always move forward.


‘My way’ by Frank Sinatra, available at: (4.36 minutes long)

Publication date: October 2021   (Vol.23 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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