Friday, October 11, 2013

A Technique for Letting Go of Past Mistakes

At one time or another, I think we've all wanted to erase a dark time from our past. The words we wish never came from our mouths, the actions we wish we never took. A promising opportunity lost because of our fear of failure. Letting someone into our heart much too quickly. Ignoring the signs.

It's everything from the tiny mistakes all the way to the so incredibly gigantic you think you'll never get your head above water. (You know, the big f-ups!) Often, it's in those moments where you doubt yourself, where you wish you weren't so stupid/ gullible/ naïve/ foolish/ idiotic.

I use to spend much of my time dwelling on these mistakes, thinking to myself, "How could I have done that?" or "Why didn't I see things clearly before?" or even "What could I have done to change things?" The never-ending run of questions racing through my mind, searching for answers, all the while my regret for whatever happened just kept growing. It's in that regret, that resentment was born, along with it's pal bitterness. Resentment and bitterness that were often projected inwards.

What I now know is that this is not a healthy way of thinking. Not only is it not healthy, it's counter-productive and just plain limiting.

"The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing." | John Powell

Past mistakes cannot be changed, transformed, or altered. Spending hours, days, and weeks thinking about the how's, why's, and what if's will send you into a perpetual state of... how's, why's, and what if's. It's a cycle that will get you nowhere fast.

For years, I've been affirming the fact that my mistakes have made me a stronger person, that they've shaped who I am today. And while I whole-heartedly agree with those sentiments, I find that sometimes when phrases become a cliché they tend to lose their meaning.

Instead? Let's dive in. Grab a piece o' paper. You've got homework.

1. Write down your biggest mistakes. The biggest pickles. The ones that really and truly sucked. Majorly rough. Were just plain painful. Get them off your chest - one, two, six of 'em. How ever many you'd like.

2. What did you learn from these mistakes? Here's where resentment and bitterness will go you nowhere. Time to get real. Dig deep(er) (and deeper) and be completely honest with yourself. This is the part where you jot down the real life lessons, the lessons that have directly affected your soul. What did you realize after-the-fact? What were your eyes opened to? How did it make you stronger?

"Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. 
You have to fail in order to practice being brave." | Mary Tyler Moore

3. How did what you learned change you? Unless it's changed your perspective, behaviour, or how you approach things, you didn't learn anything.

4. BURN, BABY, BURN. Literally. Set fire to the page. There's something therapeutic about seeing life's biggest doozies go up in flames.

Facing up to your failures and missteps is one of the hardest tasks to do, but I find that diving straight in rather than simply masking it with affirmations you don't believe is incredibly... freeing.

Let me know how you made out! I'd love to hear all about it.

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