We all make bad choices, and often shit happens as a result. Not the good kind but the stuff you’d rather forget. The type of bad decisions that change your life and leave you in a place that you have to struggle to get out of.
My first reaction is always to do a quick analysis: how bad did I screw up, what’s the fall-out and can I minimize it real quick? If the answer to question three is yes, I get on with fixing things and dance all day because I was lucky, if it’s no, then it’s time for some damage control. I start thinking about blame – was this somebody else’s fault, is there a way that I’m not the one who threw the switch and created the mess? As much as that kind of solution makes me feel better though, the truth is, it’s my stuff to own. Once I get past the analysis/denial/acceptance phase, I truly start beating myself up; why didn’t I think of the potential problems beforehand, why didn’t I listen to my wife, why couldn’t I see the writing right in front of me? Usually with me it comes down to two or three habitual screw ups: I was in a hurry, I was being lazy or worst-of-all, I was willing to sacrifice the best outcome for the quickest (read: instant gratification).
I say all this, not because I spend my whole life making lefts when I should be turning right, I think I run a pretty balanced portfolio! I say this because I was reading a post on a blog I like very much and came across a new perspective on our life when things go wrong and we’re forced to deal with major consequences. The site’s MarcandAngel.com and the post I was reading was 12 Ways to turn your Wounds into Wisdom and strength. Number four on the list of twelve was, “View Every Challenge as an Educational Assignment – Ask yourself: “What is this situation meant to teach me?” Every situation in our lives has a lesson to teach us”.
I thought about my own challenges and some decisions I’d made over the past year. They weren’t existence threatening, but they had complicated my life and set me back a few years. Since making those decisions, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about where I’ve landed and how I could lighten the load I feel each day on my shoulders.
Why not, I opened my notebook and asked myself the same question,“What’s this situation meant to teach me?” I started writing and the words came easy, not the answers that were right or safe but the honest ones, the ones I don’t like to admit or take blame for. When you approach your mistakes as a challenge – an opportunity to learn, it’s much easier to say what your really thinking. It doesn’t feel as personal and the objective is now a positive one; rather than strapping on bad weight, I found myself excited to write down the answers so I could begin to create some value from my mistakes.
Reading back my answers, I realized two things. First, nothing’s insurmountable; the thoughts that have rolled around in my middle-of-the-night brain for the past year, while challenging are absolutely surmountable. Most importantly, our lives are on paths littered with crossroads, we’re never going to get every decision right – that isn’t the point, each intersection is just another step along the way. The knowledge to hold tight, is that life is mostly long and we will face challenges all the way through it. For most of us the results won’t be terminal, they can be a challenge but not often do they signal the end. Our success or failure in navigating these crossroads isn’t getting all the answers right, it’s finding the right answers when we’re wrong. So, do we suffer in our heads and stay imprisoned by our mistakes or do we learn and rise up a better person… the choice is ours.