July 26, 2018 by Dymphna

The three great mistakes in life

We all make these mistakes. What matters is how you let them go.

The Irish poet David Whyte says that there are three false beliefs that we share with all of humanity.

The first is that we will somehow escape the wintering – that we will somehow manage to enjoy all the springs and summers of life, but duck the winterings.

It’s the nature of our world – summer must be balanced by winter, joy must be balanced by sorrow.

We see this around us, but still think we might live an exceptional life – one where sorrow and pain don’t touch us, and we’ll be young and happy forever.

The second false belief is that we will never have our hearts broken. Again, we somehow think we will escape that most universal of human experiences.

But our hearts will be broken – by our lovers, but also by our children, by our work and by our projects. And it has to be that way. If you invest yourself in something, you risk having your heart broken.

And a courageous life asks us to invest ourselves and take this risk over and over again. At some point, our number will come up and our heart will break.

(And don’t think you can duck it by not investing in anything. That just simply breaks the heart of your soul. It’s not what you’re here to do.)

And the third false belief is that with enough planning, somehow we will be able to chart a course that will get us all the way from here to our destination.

That somehow we’ll be able to eliminate uncertainty and chance from life. That we’ll be able to completely control our course, and all the events along the way.

This is ‘the great human arrogance’ and denies what Whyte calls ‘the conversational nature of reality’. That your life is a collaborative project, a dance between you and the world.

The magic of life happens when you feel the world responding, when you hear its voice in the conversation, you see its collaborative hand in your projects. It’s a cold and lonely life if you’re trying to be a soloist.

Anyway, I love all of these ideas. I think Whyte is pointing to some important stages of growth that we all have to go through to be the mature and realised beings we have the potential to be.

But what I love is that he says these are universal beliefs. That everyone comes into the world holding these ideas, and that everyone at some point has to let them go.

I think shame and the fear that we might be wrong holds us back a lot. We’re not able to transform and take on new ideas because that would mean we were wrong and we would look foolish.

Yes, you do look foolish. I look back at my 20-year old self and just laugh at the things I used to say and believe.

But that’s ok. We’re all on the journey.

Hold on to a belief until it no longer serves you. Then just laugh and let it go.

You’re not the first person to be deluding yourself, and you won’t be the last.

Being embarrassingly wrong on regular occasions is just part of the journey.

It’s part of every journey.