Those mistakes that shape our lives

Just as busi­ness tend to evolve thanks to fail­ures and improve­ments, I strong­ly think that we tend to evolve through our mis­takes, our errors and regrets. But I also strong­ly believe that not all errors are equal, and that in each of our lives, we’re mak­ing what I call some major for­ma­tive mis­take. Usually we don’t real­ize it when we’re doing them, but when time pass­es by and we’re look­ing back­ward, we tend to see them clear­ly for what they are.

Those mis­takes are deeply for­ma­tive in our char­ac­ters, as mak­ing them make us evolve toward a greater human being. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb said, those mis­takes are mak­ing us a bit more antifrag­ile, as we’re build­ing on them or rather, because of them. They are easy to iden­ti­fy when you’re a bit dis­tanced from them, as they usu­al­ly pack a lot of regrets. You wish you had tak­en anoth­er deci­sion, anoth­er path, act­ed dif­fer­ent­ly, … But when you look how you act­ed after those mis­takes, you also real­ize that you learned a lot, you’re not mak­ing the same mistake.

Looking back, I’m able to count three major mis­takes in my life. The first one was hurt­ing some­one I real­ly loved through acts I deeply regret­ted. It took me 2 years to gain for­give­ness from the oth­er per­son, but 5 years to for­give myself. This mis­take for­ev­er changed the way I envi­sion and act into all my rela­tion­ships since then, in a bet­ter way. It also made me gain a best friend and some­one I don’t want to lose at all in my life.

The sec­ond was tak­ing some dis­tance from a friend as I felt it could endan­ger my rela­tion­ship. Two years after I had the chance to make amend, talk with him and explain why I react­ed this way and how stu­pid I was. Three days ago, this friend died. This mis­take taught me to always be open about what you’re feel­ing and think­ing but also, the hard way, that the peo­ple in our lives don’t last for­ev­er and that we have to act on our prob­lem as soon as pos­si­ble, when we still have the chance to.

The third one was both per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al as I let my ego get in the way and cloud my judg­ment, tak­ing a non cal­cu­lat­ed risk that almost destroyed a lot of my rela­tion­ships and career path. This mis­take taught me to not let your ego get in the way and also to always lis­ten to oppo­site advice. It also teached me to be more care­ful and con­sid­er every pos­si­bil­i­ty before tak­ing a deci­sion. It also teached me to lis­ten to my guts and to refuse some­thing if it doesn’t feel right.

Those three mis­takes shaped my per­son­al­i­ty and the way I’m think­ing today by hit­ting hard on three major aspects of life: love, friend­ship and work. But I would say I have been ”lucky” enough to have the chance to build on them, and to have the chance to make amend to both my ex lover and my friend before it was too late. Talking with a lot of peo­ple, I real­ized that every­body didn’t had this chance in their life unfor­tu­nate­ly. Still those mis­takes defined them, shaped their char­ac­ters in a more pro­found way than every­thing else.

So if you have the chance, take a look back­ward, what are those deci­sions, those acts that you deeply regret? Can you still act on them and, if anoth­er per­son if involved, ask for­give­ness? While those mis­takes shape us, we don’t have to let them leave open wounds in our lives, scars are a way to keep the teach­ing while still heal­ing.

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Simon Vandereecken

Freelance UX Designer living in Brussels (Belgium), with a deep interest into philosophy, personal growth, self improvement, books, music, ... well in many things ! I use this website to write thoughts going through my head as well as ideas, observations and reading notes. Feel free to get in touch ;)