No Mistakes or No Regrets?

One of the biggest concerns I hear from career changers is the fear of making a mistake.

In the next breath, they say they don't want to look back on their lives with regret.

You don't need a coaching certification to see how incompatible these ideas are.

I don't know who decided we should avoid mistakes at all costs.

Oh, I do know. It's our old friend the Ego.

The Ego is a gigantic diva who makes a big deal out of everything.

When we make a mistake, the Ego takes it personally. The Ego says, "Let's not do that again," and throws in some super mean things just to make sure we don't.

The problem with our old friend the Ego is that in protecting us this way, he (or she) builds walls. And those walls stand in the way of a life without regrets.

I actually believe that there are no mistakes, only opportunities. But that's a topic for another post.

For now, let's assume there are objective mistakes you can make on the path to getting to a career you love.

So what?

Honestly. So what?

Think of the WORST thing that could happen in going after a career with purpose.

[I'll wait.]

Now, pretend that thing has happened. What would you do next?

If your answer is, "I'd do nothing for another 40 years and just waste away, regretting my decision for the rest of my life," I can't help you.

But I bet your answer was some variation of, "I'd dust myself off and take steps to change it."

Here's the thing: when you embrace making mistakes, you become okay with making a lot of little ones as fast as possible.

When you're in action like that, when something doesn't go according to plan, you just pivot.

Mistakes stop feeling like mistakes. Because each step draws you closer to your goal.

Contrast that with being so afraid to make a mistake that you wait until things are unbearable. So you jump into something worse. Or stay exactly where you are.

I don't know about you, but I'll take a lot of little mistakes over those alternatives any day.

Mistakes are lessons. They're the knock over the head we need to jolt us out of complacency. They're the learning we need to grow. They're the new powertool in our toolbox filled with IKEA allen wrenches.

Think of the failed relationships that led you to a better partner. Think of the trips that didn't go according to plan that revealed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (or at least a great story). Think of all the wrong turns--literally and metaphorically--that resulted in something better.

The only career mistake you can actually make is not doing anything.

I have zero regrets in life. I also look at mistakes as inevitable steps on the path to what I want. Instead of avoiding them, I say, "Let's get this over with." I've probably made more mistakes than the average person. And I'm a better coach/leader/business owner/daughter/sister/friend/person because of it.

When you allow the walls to come down, the good stuff starts flowing in. When you trust yourself enough to remember that you won’t let yourself fail, your capacity for success is limitless.

Your career is a string of choices that allow you to create the career path of your own design. Strung together, your choices reveal not a binary sequence of black & white, good & bad, right & wrong, but a vibrant spectrum of experiences and opportunities.

To live a life of zero regrets, you have to go after everything you want. Will it happen perfectly in exactly the way you envision? Probably not.

But I don't know anyone who's taken steps to design a career with purpose that regrets it for a minute. In fact, most of the time they marvel at why they didn't do it sooner.

Some things take longer. Some things happen way faster. Some awesome things happen that you won't see coming.

So, what are you choosing--a life of no mistakes or a life of no regrets?

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Author Bio: 

Before becoming a coach, Caroline worked in management consulting and financial services. She's made it her mission to help people grow, contribute, and get wherever they want to go.

Caroline wants women to recognize how much power they truly have to define their careers. The life and career you want really is possible once you have the roadmap. Take the first step by downloading her free guide.

She’s also a tennis fanatic, aspiring Minimalist, FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early) enthusiast, and Aloha Spirit seeker 🤙. She loves to share stories from her unconventional life and career focused on freedom, creativity, fun, health, family, and community. If she can do it, you can, too.