What are our life lessons learned?

By | January 9, 2013

lessons learned meetingAs a project manager, at the end of a big project we always got the team together to discuss the lessons learned from the project and documented them. I always dreaded this exercise because it meant that we had to look for ways to bring up our mistakes in constructively creative ways and then discuss options for making sure they don’t happen again. Inevitably, people got defensive as they were held accountable for issues. These meetings ended up being about 2/3 defensive posturing and attempts at passing the buck, and about 1/3 true problem solving. Overall, these were not fun meetings.

sports mistakeAs humans, we are conditioned to consider a mistake as a bad thing. To us, when we make a mistake, it means we are flawed in some way. Usually, there is some negative result from our mistake that causes us suffering, embarrassment, or lost time. If we have a tendency to make a lot of mistakes, this tendency can cause us to have inferiority complexes, self-esteem issues, or depression. The mistakes or bad decisions problem can become so acute that we often disengage ourselves from the mistakes by blaming others for our propensity to make mistakes, or with a health problem, or some even deny them all together by lying or becoming duplicitous.

drinking our mistakesWe run from our mistakes, trying to get as much distance between the memory of our mistake and whatever is going to happen next. But, anything we run from; always chases us.

There is another way to look at mistakes though and one that transforms our mistakes into some of our greatest gifts, although I am not surprised we don’t know this, with a lifetime of conditioning that mistakes are “bad” and less than acceptable behavior. What started out as a parents loving response to protect a baby touching a wire or getting a finger caught in a drawer, later evolves into having a chunk of your character chiseled away with parental or societal molding of a character that “they” deemed to be overparentingacceptable. You must be a good student, obedient, follow the rules, good at everything you try, amazing at your resilience to keep trying, and herculean in your attitude at all times. Growing up, your caretakers, parents and teachers, expect you to be more than they could even have been, and all under the loving umbrella of raising you and teaching you. We can’t blame them of course; they were teaching what they themselves were taught. But we can now see why there is a one sightedness to how we process our mistakes.

Viewed another way, mistakes can be looked upon as the testing ground for advancement and greatness. To help make this idea clearer, let’s look at a similar process that we go through as humans – scientific theory.

scientific theoryWikipedia describes scientific theory as:
A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Scientists create scientific theories from hypotheses that have been corroborated through the scientific method, and then gather evidence to test their accuracy.

Notice how I bolded the words, “repeatedly confirmed” and “experiment.” In scientific theory, in order to gain a well formed hypothesis, you must experiment, which is another way of saying that, as human beings, in order to gain awareness of the material and the spiritual world, we must make mistakes. Mistakes are the experiments! If we don’t make mistakes, we cannot gain the information we need to understand whatever it is we made the mistake over. Classic example: Regardless of what we are told, we can’t verify that the stove is hot (this is our theory) until we test it (experiment/mistake) by soccer kicktouching it. After we are burned, we confirm the hypothesis that touching a hot stove will burn you. The getting burned part was not fun, but it was part of the process of learning this lesson about hot stoves, so therefore there is nothing more to do with that memory, other than to bless its wisdom.

Mistakes are nothing more than the opportunity to gain a feedback about what conditions that have not been met yet in order to accomplish your objective. In the hot stove scenario, the condition not met in order to touch a stove is that we didn’t turn off the stove burner. The feedback was – we got burned. Now we know.

Seeing mistakes and bad choices in the scientific theory way, leads to a newlearned from my mistakes belief that you cannot be “less” in the world, only “more”, through the awareness that comes from any experience of your mistakes.

Taking a different viewpoint on our mistakes and how we can benefit from them, as opposed to be diminished by them, can open up new doors of opportunity and potential for us all over the place. Imagine, thinking after a bad choice or an unconscious mistake, “Great! What can I learn here!” instead of “What a screw up, why can’t I ever do anything right?” One is an enhancing attitude and one is a diminishing attitude – which do you prefer?

Making the same mistakes over and over again is, according to Einstein, the definition of insanity. The reason we do this is because we do not see the potential lesson in our mistakes. We just keep hoping that next time, things will be different (or aka “I didn’t take advantage of learning my lesson the first, second, and third time I did this”).

Let’s lose the old way of viewing our mistakes. These mistakes are our blessings. Yes, sometimes they hurt – but if we don’t run from them, or ignore them, we can learn from them. And this means: We grow, we live more freely, and we appreciate everything more, even our mistakes.

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