We can learn from all actions, positive, neutral, and negative, if we remain mindful —that is, if we observe dispassionately the mental processes that led us to them, their actual performance, and the consequences that ensue.
The key word is dispassion: without passion. When we act in ways that apparently lead to successful consequences, if we develop pride we will be blind to the fullness of the experience, and especially to the collaboration of countless others in that success.
When we act in ways that apparently lead to unsuccessful consequences, if we develop guilt we will narrow our view, restrict our options, and place ourselves in a situation where more ‘mistakes’ are probable.
Guilt over a bad or poor decision does not foster clarity, as it repeatedly leads us to compare the present with an idealized past or a projected future. Neither exists. They are not suitable references upon which to base decision-making.
Whether the decision was indeed good or bad, the only relevant data set is that which we gather through perception and inference now. Blame and guilt do not add, but rather detract, from that process. They cloud our judgment, and also make us doubt our capacity to make decisions.
We are here now. What are our options here? What are our options elsewhere? What is the best course of action now? How do we make decisions in this place and time?
We are not ‘stuck’ with or in our mistakes. They can always be corrected. We do live with the consequences of all our actions, but that is how we develop clarity, how we discover patterns in our own behavior, and how we learn to make better decisions.