As I approach my 30th birthday, I’ve taken time to reflect how much has changed in my life in the last decade. During my twenties, I made so many mistakes, hurt people I loved, and behaved in ways that I can’t say I’m proud of. However, as much as I messed up, I wouldn’t take any of my mistakes back, as they taught me lessons and shaped the person I’ve become today.
A good friend of mine told me that “Your twenties are for f*cking up. You don’t act according to your values because you’re still establishing them.” His words ring true. While I think I’ve got a good grip on my moral compass and fundamental set of values, I’m still shaping my character to this day and will probably continue doing so for the rest of my life.
It is human to make mistakes. Some mistakes are witnessed by others and come with more shame, some are in private and come with more guilt. Some hurt others, and some ultimately hurt just you. In a life where trial and error is often how we learn, avoiding making mistakes is not very realistic. However, making different choices the next time around to avoid making the same mistake – is completely in your control.
Where we differ as human beings is the choices we make after we falter. I distinguish the difference in two different camps. There are those who use regret and remorse as a catalyst to grow and change their way of doing life in order to become better people. The consequences of their mistake serve as a reminder to do things differently to avoid repeating the same situation. Often, we need these experiences to teach us the lessons in life that ultimately shape our character.
Then, there are those who feel ashamed by their shame, and after a period of self-loathing and guilt, they resort back to their exact same way of thinking and behaviour. Instead of the mistake becoming a lesson, it becomes just another cyclical loop in habits.
When you make mistakes how do you respond? If your mistake leaves a trail of hurt and destruction in the lives of others, do you make amends and apologize with actions and empathy? Or are the people that reap the consequences of your mistake just a mere casualty of your disregard?
What builds character is not avoiding mistakes – it’s how you choose to think and act afterwards. Use your mistakes as opportunities to grow. And hopefully you can “make better mistakes tomorrow”.
I want to share a a video. It is of a talk a dear friend and former colleague of mine who discusses some of the lessons he learned after making a big mistake in his life. I have respect for how he chose to change his life after – using his experience to help him grow. Thanks for inspiring me Chris.