Top Lessons from Mistakes I’ve Made

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It’s a common phrase, isn’t it?

Learn from your mistakes.

Ideally, people would learn from the mistakes of others. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes we only learn the lesson when we get firsthand experience. And firsthand experience can suck.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. At least—that’s the common way to phrase it. I don’t really believe in mistakes. Like Ruth Soukup, I think that there are no mistakes, only lessons.

So, with that said, here are the top lessons I’ve learned from “mistakes” I’ve made.

Mental Health Problems Are Real

The mistake: refusing to believe I could possibly
have a mental health problem.

I have anxiety. I don’t know that it ever truly goes away. For the longest time, I never even thought that I’d have a mental health problem. My parents don’t really believe that these issues exist (they’re baby boomers) and I don’t think they recognize that they had a part to play in the development of my anxiety.

Realizing that issues of the mind actually exist and that I have anxiety threw me for a loop when it finally hit. I couldn’t understand why I felt so awful all the time—my anxiety affected me physically after going so long without therapy.

I don’t ignore those feelings anymore. My body lets me know when anxiety visits and I’ve learned from Brooke Castillo that sitting with the feeling will not kill me.

Nobody Cares About Your Goals as Much as You Do

The mistake: expecting other people to care as 
much as me, and feeling betrayed when they don't.

I love goal setting. I love goal smashing. It’s so satisfying to reach a goal or a milestone and accomplish something, but it’s equally difficult for someone else to feel the true measure of that satisfaction. My husband doesn’t feel the same sense of pride that I did when I revamped this website to look and perform better after 2.5 years on a different theme.

My parents don’t really understand the excitement I felt after writing the last word in my first novel, nor how relieved I was to finally get my Colleen Mitchell author website alive and kicking.

Sure, some of my online friends pursue the same kinds of goals that I do, but I don’t feel their excitement and they don’t feel mine. The only person who cares as much as I do about my goals… Is God. No human can feel your enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment when you crush a goal.

And that’s okay. The mistake is expecting other people to care as much as you do and then basing your feelings on that. If that’s your reality, please go listen to The Life Coach School Podcast or some other personal growth podcasts.

It’s Okay to Change

The mistake: holding on to things for too long.

I’m one of those people who wants to stay on a path because I said I’d be on that path. For me, it’s really hard to pivot and make changes. As a result, I stay on one road for too long and end up wishing I’d changed sooner.

On the flip side, I’m quick to commit to things once I realize they’re important enough to me that I can’t waste time on the decision.

For example, during a 10-minute drive home from work, I committed to presenting at my company’s next Safety Conference. I didn’t tell my manager until a couple weeks later, just to sit with the idea, but it’s a commitment. I make similarly fast decisions on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s just a gut feeling, and other times it happens before I realize I’d even thought about it.

“What If” is Usually a Trap

The mistake: spending too much time contemplating
how I "should have done things" in the past, to
give myself a better present.

I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit thinking about what I would do differently if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now. Would I pursue the same major in college? Would I date my first boyfriend? What about my pursuit for publication? For sure, I know I’d switch to a low-carb diet immediately.

The possibilities are endless and yet all a fantasy. It’s a trap to think “what if” I did things differently, because there’s nothing I can do about it now.

Another lesson I’ve learned from The Life Coach School podcast is that everything that has happened in my life was supposed to happen that way.

Could it be that all along, I have lived the life I should have lived and that everything I’ve done has been what I should have done?

Byron Katie

Isn’t that just profound? Everything we do, we were always meant to do. For some people that’s terrifying, but for others it offers relief. We don’t have to beat ourselves up over past “mistakes” because we were always going to make those mistakes.

Why? To learn from them.

That all said, I still enjoy thinking about how I could have done things differently—not to get stuck wallowing in a past I can’t change, but to extract lessons to apply to my present self—and to teach other people.

There are no mistakes, only lessons. Here are the top lessons I've learned from "mistakes" in my life—lessons I lean on every day to be a better person.

Friendships Require My Work and Effort

The mistake: Hoping, wishing, and expecting the 
other person to carry the relationship — or end
it.

We make friends in high school and college because we’re in close contact every day, pursuing the same subject matter. It’s not that we share interests, or really care about that person’s path through life.

I was “friends” with a girl in community college only because we shared a class. We had nothing in common. She loved Twilight and hated Harry Potter. She started text threads with “Hey” and left it there, expecting me to continue the conversation. I didn’t understand why at first, but I felt drained and frustrated after interacting with her. She had turned into a “toxic” friend because we didn’t mesh, and pursuant to my tendency to hold on to things for too long, the “friendship” clung to life far past its expiration date.

It’s Up To Me.

Over the years I’ve realized that if I want a friendship, it’s up to me to cultivate it. It’s up to me to make the effort and take the initiative to hang out. I can’t expect that the friendship holds equal importance to the other person.

This looks like messaging friends every so often, setting up coffee “dates” and days together, making plans to do things together that keep the friendship healthy.

I’ve also learned that some friendships are only here for a season in life. Most high school friends moved on. I used to trade notes on an almost-daily basis with one girl in high school. My college roommates were good friends when I lived with them, and then real life happened after graduation. And some friends I made at Panther Camp were only friends until the camper years concluded. Few of them stayed through the CIT years to become counselors. That distance crumbled the friendships.

Fear, Worry, and Wishes Don’t Serve Me

The mistake: letting fear, worry, and wishful 
thinking hold me back from success.

I started writing in 2005, at age 12. By 2008, I had story ideas up to my ears and two early manuscripts. I thought I could be published before I even finished high school, but the more I worked on my books, the more afraid I got.

Instead, I turned to publishing Fanfiction. That’s a safe creative outlet. You don’t own the characters, but you can do whatever you want with them for no profit except creative expression.

My original creative writing sucked before I took a Creative Writing elective in high school. Then it just sucked less. I didn’t want people to read it, because what if they hated it and made fun of me?

Now, I know why I felt that way. My top fear archetype is “people pleaser.” I don’t want people to think badly of me, despite logically understanding that no one’s opinions matter but my own.

It took a lot of time, self-development, and personal growth to reach the point where I could write the book and actually invite people to read it.

“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”

Eckhart Tolle

Has worrying ever improved your life? No? I didn’t think so. It doesn’t serve me, and so I practice every day to let worry fade into the background. It doesn’t deserve center stage.

What’s Your Biggest Lesson?

What “mistakes” have you made that taught you the most important lessons in your life? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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