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What Are Mistakes, Really?

Original post found here

I caught up with a friend recently, who had some news to share. She told her story with eagerness, explaining how great she felt, how much fun she was having, how she was learning so much about herself. I could see it in her: she was happy. Naturally, I joined in on her enthusiasm; I supported her and this evolution. I loved seeing her so exuberant, even if from the outside it looked as though she were making a "mistake."

As I listened to her latest developments, I considered pointing out the potential pitfalls of the decisions she was making, but I held my tongue. I realized there was no use in that – this is a smart and savvy woman, she knows there are consequences to actions. It didn’t matter what I had to say, she wasn’t asking for my opinion. Ultimately, I don’t believe in mistakes.

My friend could be walking directly towards Trouble-with-a-capital-T, but it is clearly a path she needs to forge, a curtain she needs to peek behind. While I hope the skies remain clear for her, she will find whatever lesson she needs. Her choice will bring her to her next chapter.

I used to seek council on every last little decision I ever had to make. I’d call my Mom from Target while trying to choose new bed sheets (seriously, this happened); I’d chat to every friend, neighbor, and coworker when deliberating a breakup. I’d lie awake at night contemplating the minutest details in my calendar. After years of this exhausting chatter, I finally realized that, I was gonna do what I was gonna do and talking it to death wouldn’t change the outcome (or my inability to foresee the future).

Once an idea creeps into my head, there’s no turning back. The question is no longer “am I gonna do it,” it becomes, “am I gonna not do it?” Even if I know there’s a risk involved, it becomes inevitable. Because what’s the alternative: to just sit here, on the edge of my seat, thinking what if? I’d rather go for it and have it blow up in my face than sit around wondering.

Even those decisions I’ve made that now make me shake my head, roll my eyes, and plant my face in my palm, I don’t regret. At the time, it was exactly what I wanted to do, and it was what I needed to do. I had an experience that I wanted to have and I learned a lesson, even if shit hit the fan. This is just…life.

As we caught up, my friend and I discussed a decision I’d made, one that I could easily label a “mistake," but rather was a big fat lesson. One I’ve probably had shoved in my face time and time again, but that I kept ignoring. That’s how these things work-- if we ignore them, the lessons get louder, more aggressive, with bigger consequences. Until we finally get it. Ever wonder why we keep repeating the same patterns? This is why.

So how do we know what’s right and what’s wrong when making a tough decision? We don’t. There’s nobody calling the shots on this; one path is not marked “mistake” and the other marked “definitely the way to go.” All we can do is trust ourselves and our decisions. 

Besides, I always wonder – if you skipped one terrible experience and didn’t learn the lesson from it, would you find yourself in a different-but-even-worse one, lacking the knowledge you’d need? All we can do is own our decisions, learn what we can from them, and try not to hurt anybody along the way.

How would your life change if you believed that there is no such thing as a “mistake?”

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