I don’t usually dwell on what I wish I’d done. But sometimes you want there to be an “undo” button for life.
Some mistakes are small annoyances:
– I forgot to use my 20% off coupon when I bought that pair of shoes.
– I didn’t bring my list or my canvas bags to the grocery.
– I left the sugar out of a pumpkin pie, twice.
Some mistakes are the “what was I thinking?” type:
– I wore a crushed velvet hot-pants suit and allowed myself to be photographed.
– I agreed to take the five small kids I was babysitting to the swimming pool.
– I had white carpet and babies at the same time.
Some mistakes came at work:
– I did most of my MBA reading at lunch instead of eating with my office-mates.
– I didn’t understand the critical nature of a press check for a customer mailing.
– I thought the AV guy would be available throughout my presentation.
Fortunately, none of these mistakes resulted in irreparable harm to anyone, except maybe my ego or adrenal glands. As for life’s really big decisions, I admit, I sometimes play the what-if game, imagining other paths life might have taken – if I had been a stay-at-home mom, if the kids went to different schools, if we hadn’t moved.
In the process of a job search, I was updating my resume and found that I was able to state two or three redeeming accomplishments for every position I’d ever held. I could see a bright thread running through it all so it looked like my career had a plan. Of course there was not grand plan when I was in the middle of it, but in retrospect, even the worst job I ever had taught me something that I bring to my work today. Especially the mistakes.
Decisions + Mistakes + Time gives you perspective and confidence. Some decisions could have been made differently, not every mistake gets you in deep trouble, and you’ve learned something for the next time. Occasionally this is taken as wisdom, but I try not to get too cocky. There’s plenty I can still pick-up from my kids and my younger co-workers. More than anything, I think I’ve learned to regret nothing. Maybe the hot-pants, but we shouldn’t so easily shake off our past like it was one big ill-considered decision. It makes us who we are today.