Every Choice Has a Consequence
I painted my bathroom yellow once. Except I forgot to shake the paint can. So in one corner, it was a golden orange and it gradually became off-white at the other. If you’re envisioning a beautiful ombré, I can assure you, it wasn’t. I also thought I could carefully paint around everything to avoid having to use tape. I made a mess. A mess that my dad had to fix when I moved out.
We’ve all made messes. Mistakes, boo-boos, bloopers, goofs, errors, blunders, miscalculations, slip-ups, or dropping the ball. Whatever you want to call it. I mean, we’re human, right?
But the consequences of our messes can be heavy burdens to bear. There may not be anyone or anything around to fix it for us. When I look back on my mistakes, I realize that I often had a choice. But I usually did one of three things:
- I reacted out of emotion
- I made the choice out of fear (fear of judgment, being left out, not being cool, not feeling worthy enough)
- I took the “easy” route
The conclusion I’ve come to is that when we react without pausing, use insecurity and fear to drive our choices, or find the quickest way to get by, we end up in a mess every time.
So many of our messes are avoidable. Why spend your time cleaning up your messes when you don’t have to! And if you do make a mess, learn how to clean it up! Learn from them, so it doesn’t happen again and again.
How to Learn from Your Mistakes
1. Acknowledge the Mistake
Notice when you make a mistake! You’re not perfect, nor is anyone else. You have to start being aware of yourself and the choices that you make. If everyone else is always to blame, then you are the common denominator and need to take a close look at your own behavior. If drama and conflict seem to follow you around, own your part in it. It’s easy to think that you could easily skip this step and move on to the next but don’t. This one is the most important! Remember, every choice you make is an opportunity to assess the consequence that it had. Write it down if you need to. Have a safe confidant to process it with. Take the time to stop and notice your behaviors. Get good at recognizing when you make a mistake.
2. Notice Patterns
Is there a habitual mistake being made? Is there a bad habit you keep doing? Are there triggers that cause you to make a mistake? Are you reacting too quickly to circumstances?
3. Know What You Are Thinking
This step is going to take a little practice, too. But it can become an easy habit with time. Notice what is going on in your head when you made the mistake. What were you hoping or expecting to happen? How had you wanted to behave? Did you jump to any assumptions? Were there any self-limiting beliefs involved? Try to pinpoint where the mistake stemmed from in your thinking.
4. Do Some Research, Have a Plan
Go to google.com, find a book, or ask a friend what they would have done. Find some alternate choices that could have been made instead and think about the consequences those choices would have made. Better? Worse? I’ve had some amazing friends willing to process scenarios with me and provided another perspective to consider. There have been times when I’ve even stepped out of a situation, to phone a friend, pray, de-escalate my feelings, or say an affirmation before proceeding to choose a behavior or reaction. Do the work. It will pay off.
5. Apologize or Make Amends
When you mess up, fess up. Remember how good it feels to be apologized to when you’re wronged. Even apologize to yourself if needed. Put your ego aside and learn to say I’m sorry. It is freeing and confidence-boosting to learn how to apologize well. Terry Real, founder of Relational Life Therapy suggests including 3 parts in an apology: acknowledging the present offense, past offenses/track record, and your character. For example, “I did it, yes, I typically do it, and yes I can be a real __.”
6. Apply What You’ve Learned
Wrap it all up. Don’t realize you made a mistake, figure out what could have been done instead, and then not do it! Some mistakes and bad habits can be hard to break. Keep practicing, keep noticing, and keep doing the research until those pesky mistakes and bad habits are a thing of the past.
7. Don’t Dwell On It
Once you’ve learned from a mistake, let it go! Mistakes are what you did, not who you are. In other words, you are not your mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up, instead give yourself some grace, and be proud of yourself for admitting and learning from it. Shift your perspective on what a mistake is- they are great life lessons! Be thankful for the opportunity to have learned something new (a.k.a. don’t paint any more walls without mixing the paint first). Trust that one day, you’ll be able to look back and smile, if not laugh about it.