On failure and sunk cost: lessons learned
1. Trust your gut
YOU know best whether it's better to push on through or bow out. Asking for advice from your friends is good, reading blog posts like this one might help. But in the end, listen to your intuition. Interrogate your feelings. What is making me feel uncomfortable with this decision? Is it just cold feet? Am I nervous because I'm excited and a bit overwhelmed, or because I'm making a bad choice? Doubt is your friend - in small doses, at least.
2. The idea of the thing vs. the actual thing
If you're faced with a big life decision, do the research and be honest with yourself. Do you want to work at this company because it will look good on your CV, or because you think you'd enjoy the day-to-day? Do you see yourself really getting your teeth into this coursework, or do you just some more cool letters after your name? Reputation and bragging rights are legitimate reasons to pursue a goal, but it's going to be harder to get there if you're not driven by genuine interest and enjoyment, too.
3. Embrace perspective
It's inevitable that you'll feel dumb if you've crashed and burned, because hindsight is 20/20. All your wrong turns will be obvious once you've already made them, you know? You can only do the best you can with what you know at the time. That's it. Don't pine for what could have been - do better next time.
4. You have unlimited mistakes in you
A caveat to point 3: you will never stop making mistakes. You might make them less frequently, or they might be less (or more) catastrophic than the ones you made before, but those bad boys will keep on coming. And that's okay, as long as you don't fall into the trap of assuming you're done screwing up forever. Once you accept your failures as part of life, it just might get a little easier to meet them, have a look at them, and send them on their way.
5. Talk about your failures
If there's anything I've learned from the response to these last few posts, is that people are crying out to talk about where they've gone wrong. Bonding over my mistakes with friends and strangers has made me feel so much less alone in my stress. Don't complain all the damn time, of course- but maybe we need like, a monthly night out where everyone takes turns revealing the dumbest thing they did that month. And we drink beer. And then we hug.