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The One Mistake People Make When Learning From Their Mistakes

The One Mistake People Make When Learning From Their Mistakes


    If you’re reading this blog (and particularly this post), it’s safe to say that you are into self-improvement.

    Who else would want to correct mistakes they might be making when learning from their mistakes.

    We can all agree that part of achieving personal mastery is to transform mistakes, failures and setbacks into learning opportunities that will make us stronger for the future. Mistakes are great because we just can’t learn that much from our successes but what most people don’t realize is that when they are learning from their negative experiences, they may be inadvertently making a harmful mistake.

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    One summer, I was riding my bike around the block when a few kids from another neighborhood asked to ride my bicycle and agreed to let me hold one of their bicycles for insurance. I had a bad feeling but I was young and naive so I agreed. After the first child rode off with my bike, they proceeded to push me aside and took their bike back and rode off. After trying to chase them for several blocks to no avail, I decided to head home, devastated.

    What I didn’t mention in the beginning of this story was that it was actually my older brother’s bicycle. He had just put on some new brakes and this was the first time he let me take it out for a ride. I delayed going home because I was so afraid to tell my brother for fear of retaliation but luckily for me and to my surprise, my brother was very caring and understanding. He didn’t even yell at me.

    Needless to say, I learned a lesson that day: Don’t lend my bicycle to strangers and more generally, trust my intuition.

    This experience strengthened me as a person but when I was learning from this, I made one big mistake: I held on to the negative experience to remind myself of the lesson.

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    I used to think it was necessary to vividly replay the “negative” experience to remind myself of the lesson I learned. I feared that if I forgot about the mistake, I would forget the valuable lesson.

    What I didn’t realize was that by replaying the negative experience, I was actually filling my mind with negative thoughts such as shame, humiliation, and helplessness — all of which are not great ingredients for building a healthy self-image. When you repeat this type of thinking in a habitual way, even if your intentions are good, you’re going to experience lower self-esteem because that’s what you’re subconsciously feeding into your mind.

    Mistakes are a necessary step to learning but once the lesson is learned, there is no need to dwell on the actual experience itself. The focus should be on the lesson and how you will apply this positive takeaway to other situations in the future.

    What’s scary is that parents unknowingly lower the self esteem of their kids by reminding them of their mistakes. I hear it all the time:

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    “Johnny, remember the time when you didn’t listen to your mother and touched the stove and burned your hand really badly?”

    or…

    “Lisa is always tripping over things. She is the clumsy one in the family.”

    I understand that the parents’ intentions are good, but good intentions do not necessarily translate into positive behaviors. When someone close to you makes a recurring mistake, focus on clarifying the lesson in the mistake and stop reminding that person of the actual mistake.

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    Remember the lesson, forget the experience.

    (Photo credit: Fixing a Mistake via Shutterstock)

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    Robert Chen

    Executive Coach

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

    Boundaries are limits

    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
    • When do you feel disrespected?
    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
    • When do you want to be alone?
    • How much space do you need?

    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

    Sample language:

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    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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    Final Thoughts

    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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