“Hello, My Name is Peter and I Make Mistakes”
We all do it. We all make mistakes. We’ve all done things we shouldn’t—or wish we hadn’t. Welcome to the human race. A race made up of making small and large mistakes.
I often see a sense of relief in people when they finally accept their humanity and give themselves permission to make mistakes and admit those mistakes. It’s really freeing to stop expecting perfection from ourselves!
Where to now?
Humor me for a moment and imagine your entire life so far as if it was a full bucket. Now, of everything in that bucket of life experiences, what percentage represents guilt and/or regrets.
We know—both from personal experience and from decades of research—that past experiences can, and do, affect our present reality. It’s quite possible that bad feelings about choices you’ve made in the past are creating problems for you today.
Talking about guilt and regrets is important at any time, and I feel it is especially crucial now as we advance into a second year of pandemic living. And then (you know what’s coming next) we must take action to deal with our past, so it doesn’t continue to mess with today’s life.
There are No Time Machines
Whatever did or did not happen in the past is done. Permanent. Unchangeable. Sure, you can spend time every day going over all that happened, all that was wrong, all that could have been. At the end of the day, you will still have the same things in your past that you had at the start of the day.
There are some appropriate times and places to work through things in the past. But at a point, it’s time to stop, leave the past in the past, and choose to look forward. Remember, absolutely nothing will change the past. Not what you think, what you do, how you feel, or how you act.
Change Your Thought Loop
Many of us have had an exceptionally large amount of time in the past year to get lost in thought. And for those dealing with guilt and regret, those thoughts can be very damaging and harmful.
Our brain gets stuck in thought loops very easily—especially negative ones. It’s possible you weren’t even aware of your repetitive negative self-talk—until now!
Pay attention to the thoughts you have over and over. Perhaps write them down (journal) as you become aware of them. If they’re not positive and forward-focused, they are certainly bringing negativity to your entire self. They are not serving you.
Write down a new set of truths that have nothing to do with the past, and repeat them until they overwrite the old loop. While it’s harder to create a new thought loop, once it’s firmly in place you will notice a positive change (and your brain will begin to default to the good stuff all on its own). It will write new thought habits.
This is a biggie. Whatever you did in the past, forgive yourself:
- State what you did/said/didn’t do
- List the feelings attached to this event
- Say “I forgive myself for…” (Yes, absolutely this must be said out loud!)
- Don’t worry if there isn’t a rush of positive feelings. It can take time for you to feel the release from the resentment/guilt you’ve held onto.
- The next time you’re tempted to slip back into the old thought loop, remind yourself (again, out loud is best) that you’ve forgiven yourself
Activate the Learning Gained Out of Mistakes
How many times has a mistake led to new learning, new revelations, even entirely new ways of doing things? Mistakes are part of the human experience. And more importantly, so is learningfrom them.
Whatever mistakes you’ve made, forgive yourself for them. Then grab all the good learning you can from them—insist on gaining growth out of the deal!
What do you think?
Are these suggestions real and doable?
Can you use them?
Will you use them?
We’re in this together, so let’s work through things by sharing our stories and insights. Please share with me the tools and practices that work for you.
I appreciate you.