Learning from our mistakes and accepting what is

Mistakes are things like setting your alarm to 6 p.m. when you really meant to set it to 6 a.m. or using salt instead of sugar in your coffee. These would be thoughtless errors that we all make from time to time. Other types of mistakes are the ones like General David Petraeus’ public humiliation. Had he put some thought into it, he could have foreseen the trouble he was headed for. Some mistakes like these, involve bad judgement, which could have been avoided. Either way, negative results and catastrophic consequences may be the results of mistakes and sometimes they are just mere outcomes we couldn’t have foretold or controlled.

Mistakes are also defined as accidents. As when you calculate a move carefully, but something turns out dramatically different than expected. Some chance accidents brought us great discoveries, the most famous being Penicillin by Dr. Alexander Fleming. The word “mistake” is overrated, and has severe negative connotations. We can get something positive from a chance mistake, maybe not a monumental discovery, but we can use this as a rule of thumb to believe we can get something positive out of an unexpected outcome.

We don’t typically make decisions we know are wrong. We just try to do our best and do what is right, and when we fail to produce the outcomes we hoped for, we beat ourselves up, becoming tormented by regret. If we were to see results for what they are, we wouldn’t get stuck in grief, we would accept it and move on. We might buy a house in the hopes that we can pay it off but then, the economy sinks and we are unable to make the payments. We can’t beat ourselves up when circumstances are out of our control. How were we to know? We bought the house and made a decision based on the information we had at the time. No mistake there. There are things we just can’t control and that we must accept.

We might spend days or even months worrying about which road to take. After we weigh all the alternatives, we make a move; we leap and sometimes fall flat on our faces. When we don’t like the outcome of our actions, the mistake we do make is to spend too much time immersed in regret, believing it was our fault, that we should have known better. Why spend time crying over something we can’t change that is most likely irreversible, missing out on chances to work through what has happened? We can redirect results and try to get it straight next time around. Don’t get stuck in the problem, climb out and straighten the mess. I too have produced results that weren’t of my liking, but all I could do was work with what I had on hand. I’ve had to make it work somehow to my advantage, or stay stuck, unable to move onto the next thing, living in the past. I can’t erase the fact that I hurt people, but I did make up for the harm done later on. I can’t change the fact that I got into financial trouble, but since then I’ve learned about finances, changed my spending habits and am now debt-free. So yes, I got something positive, lessons I learned firsthand that have made me a better person.

You can’t erase “a result” or take back a “mistake,” but you can work to change whatever situation you have landed in to improve it. There is always room to change gears, as hard as it might seem at the time. Just don’t regret it. Think of it as a chance to grow. Life is a series of lessons and obstacles we have to tackle. This is our story, let’s make it interesting and plunge back into life, one obstacle at a time.

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”~ Mahatma Gandhi


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