There are no guarantees in life. You can make what should be the right decision every time and still fall short of your goals. You can avoid every pitfall along the way, but never reach your destination. You can’t control the world and the other people in it, that’s just not the way that it works.
You also can’t control the outcome of your actions. There are simply too many variables that have nothing to do with you. You take a different route home to avoid traffic, and you end up in an accident. You put money away for years for retirement, only to lose it all in an unexpected market crash. Of course, not all unexpected outcomes are negative. You suffer through a long and painful breakup only to meet the partner you end up marrying months later. You get fired only to end up in a dream job that you never knew existed until you started applying.
The truth is that you never know what is going to happen next. You will never know for sure what the consequences of your actions are going to be. The best you can do is to make a certain outcome more or less likely to happen.
You can’t live your life in fear of making a mistake. You can’t make all of your decisions based on trying to avoid making the “wrong” one. You don’t know what the “wrong” one is going to be. Clearly some decisions are better than others, and there are some roads that you shouldn’t go down. I’m certainly not advocating that everyone should do meth here. What I am saying is that everything worth having involves a degree of risk. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The most enjoyable things in life are often a “mistake.” One too many drinks. The person that you just know you shouldn’t even talk to. Dropping everything to move to a new city. Taking a trip that you really can’t afford. Choosing a job that you love that pays less. Often, the “unwise” decision is the one that leads to more fun, and life is always better when it’s more fun. Nobody ever looks back on their life and wishes that they had played it safer. Sure you regret your mistakes, but it’s better to regret something you did rather than to regret missing out on an experience.
Mistakes are a part of the learning experience. How can you possibly know what you really want or don’t want until you’ve experienced something? Sometimes just you need to know for yourself how something feels. Sometimes you just need to learn a lesson for yourself. Sometimes you need to mess up a little bit to grow and evolve as a person. Your successes are a critical part of who you are, but your mistakes are just as critical. You aren’t a complete person without a few scars.
If nothing else, a mistake is a story to tell. It’s an anecdote to tell friends at parties. It’s a way to relate to someone else going through the same thing. It makes you seem less threatening and more human. It’s a badge of honor that makes you seem just a little bit edgier. So go ahead and make a mistake. To paraphrase Matthew McConaughey, “You’d be a lot cooler if you did.”