Professional Student of Life
Adventures in personal growth
The Willingness to Change Course
A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake. ~Confucius
The ego hates mistakes, especially ones that cost money or time. But the thing about life is, we can only make decisions based on what we know now, and so we often turn out to be wrong. And that’s when we have to be willing to change direction, even if it means losing time or money (or worse, inconveniencing or even hurting ourselves or others).
We just didn’t know.
Sometimes it’s a small loss or inconvenience. Now that I’m traveling and constantly having to make decisions about places I’ve never been, I’m also making tons of mistakes. It’s frustrating, but I’d rather acknowledge the mistake (for instance, about a place to stay), move on, and chalk it up to experience, even when I lose the money I’ve paid. Doubling down on a bad decision is not a good idea. The willingness to change course, even when the ego screams, is essential in travel.
It’s even more essential when the consequences are greater. When you’re set to marry someone your heart has serious misgivings about. When you’re two classes away from graduating with a degree you no longer love. When you put all your money into a business that’s failing. It’s painful and scary to admit these kinds of mistakes, but doubling down on them will only lead to more pain in the future, for you and everyone else involved.
Admitting mistakes feels shameful, but we need to reframe this. They are growth opportunities that often lead to much better experiences, once we’re willing to make the necessary course corrections. I walked away from a place I had already paid a month’s rent on, but ended up in one that delights me every day. I could have stayed in the other place, but a month of being uncomfortable was too high of a price to pay in order to maintain the illusion of being right. Many people spend years, or even lifetimes, doggedly living out their mistakes rather than admitting that they long for something different.
And how could you have known? No one sets out to make the “wrong” choice. We do the best we can, given the knowledge and abilities we have at the time. Only the ego expects us to be flawless in predicting the future! I often remind my daughter of this when she asks for advice with important decisions. You can only know what you know right now. Things might change. You might change. And if that happens, you might have to change direction somewhere down the line.
There is no shame in that.
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