We all make mistakes. The challenge comes in moving past our mistakes or those of others around us.
Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend walks through the steps to get past the points in our lives when we slip up.
Focus on Your Learning, Not Your Mistakes
As humans each of us are going to make a number of mistakes in our life that will affect how we not only see ourselves, but each other. As a child I remember playing in our family car and removing the emergency brake, sending the car coasting (with me in it) down the drive way, across the street, over the front neighbor’s lawn and into the bushes in front of their house. Luckily, I was blessed with neighbors and family who were easily able to see this as a funny or weird event, a moment in time, and didn’t generalize the mistake as a sign of a difficult driving career ahead for me. Although we bring the story up to laugh once in a while, my past didn’t peg me as a “mischievous neighbor kid who was always getting into trouble.” Instead my mother helped me learn from the mistake and reassured me by saying, “Well, you’ve learned your lesson. I’m sure that will never happen again.” Ironically now, the emergency brake is always engaged when my car is in park.
Key: Focus on the two or three key learning’s that came from your last mistake. Whenever the mistake is brought up, discuss your learning’s openly with others.
Give the “Benefit of the Doubt”
“Never Attribute to Malice, that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”
One of the hardest parts of moving on from our mistakes is that fact that people tend to be such hard critics of each other and themselves. In my years of working closely with people I’ve found that the mistakes we tend to make in our lives are most usually caused by a slow leak of ignorance or weakness, rather than a major blowout of malicious intent. One of the fastest ways to move on from mistakes, both ours and others, in the world is to learn to give the benefit of the doubt.
To give the benefit of the doubt means we honor the fact that the essence of all people is goodness and so even in their weakest moments of life we can always look for the noble and good that is inside every person. To give the benefit of the doubt means we don’t need to make the whole person “bad” for what they’ve done, but instead we can see that good people, in moments of weakness, stress, loneliness or fear can end up doing “bad” things.
One of the biggest reasons to give someone the benefit of the doubt is because of how it impacts how we feel about the situation and person who made the mistake. For example, if you, as a mother of four children, just yelled at your child for spilling his drink on the carpet then you have a chance to give yourself the “benefit of the doubt”. You can either see yourself as a good mother in a moment of weakness or frustration or a bad mother who has just manifesting how truly awful you are at the core. In the end each of these interpretations will determine what you feel. One leaves you sad but with hope you can change because of your inherent goodness. The other leaves you believing you’re really not good with little hope of making your life better. In the end, how you chose to interpret the event will determine how you feel about it. People who can give themselves the benefit of the doubt end up moving on faster and healthier.
Key: Give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt by choosing to see yourself / them as an inherently “good” person who in a moment of weakness or frustration made a “bad” decision.
Tell the Healthy Story
After we make a mistake, no matter how serious or benign it might be, we as humans end up creating a story that we use to explain how the mistake came to be. The story is created not only for those around us who may hear about the mistake, but also is told to ourselves to help us sort through the embarrassing mistake. When moving on from either your own mistakes or the mistakes of others I suggest you learn to tell what I call a “healthy” or “whole” story. Telling the “whole” story is difficult for us because it runs counter to our natural desire to look good or to save face. Most of the stories we tell about something we’ve done wrong tend to be incomplete stories, where we leave out some important facts so that we are seen in a more positive light.
An excellent example of half stories is exhibited every time you catch your children fighting or one of them hurting another child. Inevitably, they begin to tell you what the other person did that started the fight or how they were a victim of the other child and that they only hit them in the head with the broom because they “Couldn’t take any more”.
As common as these victim or villain stories are in our lives they do have their consequences in the long run because they tend to keep us from taking specific and direct responsibility for the mistakes we make or the actions we took that were unhealthy. Even though the other child may have started it, escalated and handed you the broom, you still chose to hit them. No matter whom you blame or how well you spin the story, if you don’t see how you contributed to the problem or the mistakes in your life, you’ll have a hard time changing them. If we don’t tell healthy and complete stories, we will usually not get healthy and whole solutions to implement the next time we run into problems.
Key: Whenever you think about and discuss the mistakes you make in life, be sure to take full responsibility for how you contributed to the problem and what you wish you had done better.
Become the Change You Seek
There is no greater way to move on from a mistake than to become the change you seek. Change is the greatest path to freedom from guilt and shame. Changing the way you think and see both yourself and the world around you is the best and most complete sign that you will not be bound to constant regrets and thoughts of your mistakes. The best way to communicate that you’ve moved on from the mistakes in your past is to become different. Let your life, your actions and your countenance do all of the talking, not your mouth.
Key: Create a plan to begin to change something in your life that doesn’t lead you to who you want to be.
Date Night with Matt Townsend
“The 7 Basic Needs”
Friday, April 8
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
$35 per couple
Location: Noah’s in South Jordan