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Rule #33. Learn from your mistakes. Then forgive yourself for them.
Everybody screws up. I do it a lot. But that’s okay; behind every failure is an opportunity. Each mistake is a lesson. Once you’ve dusted yourself off, administered first aid, and gotten a little emotional distance you can start to analyze what you did wrong and learn from it. But don’t forget the next part, which is equally important; forgive yourself.
We tend to be our own harshest critics. When we mess up, we want to understand how and why, so that we can avoid making a similar mistake in the future. This is a good practice, and it’s how we gain valuable experience in life. Learning from our mistakes is one of the best things we can do when we mess up. Beating ourselves up for our mistakes, however, is one of the worst things we can do.
You may think that being hard on yourself or placing extra guilt on yourself will help motivate you to do better next time, but research has shown the opposite to be true; beating yourself up or focusing on your guilt creates a negative feedback loop. Essentially, your brain decides that since you’ve already screwed up that you might as well continue making those errors. That’s why it’s important to be forgiving and compassionate in regards to your own blunders. Because when you do that, your brain interprets mistakes for what they are, instead of as character flaws that can’t be overcome. To truly learn from our mistakes, we have to forgive ourselves for them. Blame and guilt weaken our resolve and deplete our willpower.
We should take responsibility for our actions (or lack there of), and when we mess up, we should be up front and honest about it. Once we’ve done damage control and rectified things to the best of our ability, then comes time to sort out how and why we screwed up. Once we’ve learned from our mistakes, we need to forgive ourselves for them. It’s the best way to get past the mistakes we’ve made and move forward in our lives.
“Rules for Intrepid Living” is a weekly post giving guidelines for how we can all live a bit more of an intrepid life.