DJ: A friend messaged me about a mistake she thought to be grave. My take? We all make mistakes—large, small, easy or life-changing, and they do not always appear to be awesome learning opportunities. The lessons are often easier said than done. But these hopefully should not drive us to live and act in boxes to protect ourselves in, that we no longer take risks or expand beyond our comfort zones. Shortcomings are gifts too. Once managed effectively, they serve as guideposts in our growth as persons.

Michelle: Some people think they know how to love and deal with all aspects of a relationship—only to blow it due to pride or lack of discernment. Many commit the same mistakes when it comes to relationships—like falling for someone who shares the same character flaws as the previous partner. It is said that, “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgment.” We need to learn from our mistakes so that we do not risk repeating them. Unfortunately, for some of us, it takes a few (or many) repeats of the same mistake to learn the lesson.

DJ: Mistakes are often labeled as such in comparison to what we view as success. Thus, they can also serve as signs to get in touch with ourselves and see what we truly want to be, what we wish to act or accomplish. Working on these can be daunting at times but doing so can also lead us to clarity about the path we wish to take. I once chose the wrong course when I was a student. For five long years, it truly was painful to excel in something I wasn’t really interested in. My heart was clearly not there. But such misstep taught me one lesson I carry with me until this day. I no longer decide on career opportunities without discerning what I truly think and feel about them. I no longer enter into something just because the door is open, out of sheer pressure or just because it appears nice. I learned that real success and happiness can only be achieved when our mind and heart are aligned to what we think, say or do.

M: You can only learn from the error of your ways if you recognize the fact that you made a mistake and continue to make the same mistakes because of your refusal to let it go, to end a relationship that has no future, or to hang on to the hope that one day all will be well. But no matter what anyone can tell us, ultimately, we are the ones that have to make the hard decisions. We can’t expect others to do it for us. As you said we all make mistakes. However, we have got to put it behind us or else we will always carry them forward into the future with us.

DJ: It is often empowering to look for our role in the mistake. It’s not fun but it can also lead us to taking another road so we don’t fall in the same hole again and again. One thing we should watch out for, however, is the self-defeating habit of putting ourselves down. While we always strive to become better than we already are, we also have to realize that not being so perfect is what also makes us unique. We are loved by people who matter and so we need to also balance things by knowing when to give ourselves a break. I made a political misstep early on in my career. As I was leaving the board room after the deliberation, I remember what my boss told me—we are so much more than our mistakes. We should not allow these to prevent us from risking, growing and stretching to meet our potential.

M: Analysis is good. But taking a firm action not to repeat the same mistake is better. I like your analogy of taking another road so one does not fall in the same hole. I just wish you can tell your friend that her feelings of guilt, remorse, self-loathing etc. will only disappear if she faces the problem head on; by being truthful, by possibly acknowledging the need for help. Keeping things in the dark will let pain fester. It can be painful, but at least the pain will likely heal because she brought it out in the light.