The Biggest Mistake

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?

Do you live with it, still, every day? Is its aftermath part of your current reality?

Have you made this mistake more than once? Do you feel you have learned from it?

Do you ever wonder, “Why me?, Why is this the mistake I keep making, over and over?”

Do you feel grateful for the mistake?

Is its lesson apparent and prevalent in your every day? Or, does it seem like you are destined to make the same mistake over and over, with no respite, no lesson, no meaning?

 

It’s been said that the mistakes we make are gifts, that they allow us to access our most important life lessons.

Few among us would dispute that.

But, I am sure I speak for most of us when I state that mistakes, whether underway or past, often feel more terrible than wonderful. And by “often,” I mean that thinking about our mistakes feels pretty awful most of the time. 

I marvel at people who say they enjoy making mistakes or seek our more mistakes. Sometimes they talk about the glory of failing, as well. I understand and appreciate the idea of trying and failing trumping comfort zone and staying in “neutral,” but the idea that people get off on making mistakes is fascinating and foreign to me.

I hate making mistakes. Not because I think I am perfect or strive to be perfect. (Though I did just that for years. It was tiring.) No, I hate making mistakes because I hate having to live with them after.

I can usually “fix” the actual mistake and actions or words or patterns that led to the mistake.

But it is the residue, the slimy, can’t-scrub-it-all-off muck of the mistake that stays with me, sometimes it seems, forever. 

This scummy muck lives in questions like these:

How could you do that?

Why did you do that?

I can’t believe you said that!

Why were you with him?

How could you let her do that?

Obviously you picked the wrong one.

You ate what?!

How could you stand by and say nothing?

Why do you put up with him?

 

I suppose the thing I am working on is making that connection between the slime and the lesson. I don’t think any one of us will stop making the mistakes for as long as we are around in this life. So the “trick” is not to avoid (or try to avoid) making them. My thinking is that somewhere in there, deep in the fallout from the mistake, is the thing that will make those questions obsolete and make the mistake itself meaningful on a better level. And it is probably that better meaning that allows people to better let go and move on, onto a place where they can put those lessons to good use.

I’d love to know how you do that and what has worked for you. If you are willing to share, I am betting that your story will help not only me but many others who are reading this but perhaps not ready to step forward and share.

Allison Nazarian

Copywriter | Ghostwriter | Author | Writing Seminars | Teacher | And…MOM

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Comments

comments

  • http://www.lisarobbinyoung.com Lisa Robbin Young

    I used to get this way: feeling the muckiness of the mistake. Then, one day I happened to ask myself “what if I was SUPPOSED to make this mistake? What if part of my destiny was to make that mistake so that my life would take the path that leads to my ultimate good?”

    Yeah, it’s kind of a cornball thing, but that’s what happened. And I thought long and hard about it, and figured, well, we all make mistakes, so if they’re gonna happen, I suppose there are worse ones than this (ones that could kill me or really do “unfixable” damage).

    It’s that whole butterfly effect thing. When I was able to think of how the world would be different if I didn’t make that mistake, it slowly, over time, pulled me out of the muckiness of making mistakes. I still don’t like them, but I feel less mucky afterwards. :-)

    • http://loveyourmessbook.com Allison Nazarian

      L, I used this question you provided in my thinking the other way. Like anything else, it is a muscle that needs to be worked, obviously, over time. But it did turn the thinking around, for sure. I like the idea of destiny and a bigger picture. Thank yo!

  • Andrea Maurer

    Great post (as usual), Allison. As an expert maker of mistakes of just about every variety, I have had to learn to forgive myself. It was the key to stopping the cycle. You see, if you beat yourself up enough, pretty soon you start believing that you’re not worthy of better. And if you’re not worthy of better, than why not just do whatever the hell looks or feels good at the time? Enter: vicious cycle.

    The key to forgiveness (the kind that will set you free) is getting to the truth of the situation. That truth lies is one of two things: 1) the REAL reason you did what you did; and/or 2) what making that mistake lead you to.

    The real reason you did what you did was because you were in deep pain. You were either scared or wounded or both. Doesn’t that warrant some compassion and understanding? Yes, it does. You were too screwed up to make a better choice. If you hadn’t been, you would’ve made a better one. Period. Give yourself a big hug and move on.

    Secondly, most mistakes (when looked at in hindsight) serve a greater good. For example, one of my biggest screw-ups is that I didn’t graduate from college. If I play the game where I go back in time and change that and then move forward through my life from there, EVERYTHING changes. I don’t meet my husband… I don’t have my kids…, etc. My entire life looks totally different. What looks bad on the surface will always result in good that couldn’t have been realized in any other way. Trust that all is at it should be.

    Sorry to be so long-winded. Like I said, it’s my area of expertise!

    • http://loveyourmessbook.com Allison Nazarian

      Yes, the vicious cycle. I know it well.
      I am interested in exploring more what you call “the REAL reason you did what you did” — I totally agree that is a powerful thing to pinpoint. And I would agree that 9 times out of 10 (or maybe all 10?) it does come from a place of deep pain — a place that exists even after you do that thing or make that choice. And ultimately, that is what needs to be addressed and healed, right?

  • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com LeeBlock

    So many mistakes, or lessons learned, as I prefer to call them,….but then I realized that everything happens for a reason, it’s just waiting to see what that reason is…biggest lesson learned I ever made was in marrying my ex, and I did it for ALL the wrong reasons, but now, looking back the reason why I made that decision was because I have my children, which I wouldn’t have had I not married him.  So, I actually have to thank him…as much as that makes me want to gag to say it….

    • http://loveyourmessbook.com Allison Nazarian

      LOL re gagging.
      I agree about lessons learned. I think I start to get concerned if it is clear I am getting the same lesson over and over, which means I have not truly learned it yet, which becomes worrisome for me.

  • http://ownyourlifecoaching.com/ An

    Hi Allison, maybe the slime is the lesson.  
    I love the questions you ask at the end of your post.  These are all lovely inviting questions when you read them in a neutral, non-judgmental, curious “oh, so intriguing! let’s explore this cool stuff!” kind of way.  What made you do that?  Why did you eat that? …  All brilliant things to explore.  
    What I think creates the slime add-on (but tell me where I’m wrong!), is the little sneaky add-on thought “you shouldn’t have done that”, “you shouldn’t have eaten that”, “you shouldn’t have picked the wrong guy”,  …  Which of course is fighting with reality, because you just did that, ate that, picked the wrong guy.  I love the quote from Byron Katie where she says “When I argue with what is, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”
    I’ve made tons of mistakes in my life and have been in the slime and non-slime space.
    Whenever I find myself in the slime space, I grab a piece of paper and start jotting down what happened and my story about it, all my thoughts about what should have happened, judgments about myself, …   And then I play around with different perspectives, different thoughts that don’t change what happened, but how I feel about what happened.  When I embrace what happened (vs. I shouldn’t have done this) from a non-judgmental space (vs. I am so stupid for doing that, …) I’ve experienced the slime disappear time after time.
    Let me know if this helps! 
    xo
    An

    • http://loveyourmessbook.com Allison Nazarian

      Hi An,
      Yes, the slime is the lesson.
      I have read your comment a few times, and will a few more. The idea that the question is not the issue/problem — but the judgmental “slimy add-on” is where we start to run into the berating of ourselves, right?
      I totally agree and think making that distinction can go a long way in helping us to see a mistake/bad choice/slip-up for what it is without judging it or ourselves.
      Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Hey Alli,

    Honestly, I am not a fan of the word “Mistake.” I think I dislike the word more than I do making the mistakes themselves. I really think the word mistake needs to be struck from the dictionary and from our vocabulary as quickly and as suddenly and as permanently as possible. Yeah, I am very clear and settled in my feelings on this. :-)

    Here’s the thing. When we call mistakes mistakes, we give them power. And while feeling really badly about ourselves and our “mistakes,” we seem to be able to conviently use them as excuses for our behavior. Mistakes are bad and they have a way of making us feel bad.

    So what do I do to stop making excuses and become more empowered? I no longer refer to mistakes in my life. I don’t think anything is really a mistake, which to me somehow suggests it was by accident. It’s possibly a hard pill to swallow but the truth is…

    Mistakes are simply bad choices. 

    Choices that we chose — consciously. Choices that we make despite knowing there was probably a better choice for us that we simply were not prepared to make at the time. Choices that we make not maliciously or with the intent to harm ourselves or others but also that were not made “by accident.”

    The great news here is that we always have control over the choices we make. By looking at mistakes as choices, we are empowered by the awareness that we always have the chance to make a better choice next time. We are also empowered, because this perspective wakes us up to taking conscious ownership of our choices. There is a sort of freedom in owning our choices — even when they are bad choices. 

    So I say let’s start a revolution — or would it be an evolution…

    Goodbye MISTAKE. Hello CHOICE. :-)

    Do you feel empowered? :-)

    Now, she steps down from her soap box, wipes her brow and says, “Thanks for listening. Choice. Yes, choice is good — even when it’s bad.”

    xoxo,
    Shannon

     

        

    • http://loveyourmessbook.com Allison Nazarian

      SS. this is SUCH a great and well-put comment. The idea that “mistakes are simply bad choices” is really a powerful one. That’s some real food for thought. THANK YOU!

  • ginny sheen

    I’m catching up on a week of reading favorite blogs. Sheila Callahan’s and yours, in particular. This one made me laugh, as I have an entirely different way of thinking about mistakes. Whenever I read a book, if it’s a good story, I cast the movie version. It started to come naturally to think of life as my own movie. Mistakes became mis-takes. When making movies there are always a number of shot that become re-takes. Then the mis-takes become out-takes, and end up on the cutting room floor.  One can make a “reel” of the out-takes and watch them occasionally or over and over. Or never. In the end, the story is what’s left. Call mistakes what you will, but they happen. We make them happen. Then we have to deal with them. When I review my own out-takes, I’m stunned at the whopper mistakes I’ve made. Some I’ve made more than once. STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. Shrug. They go  back a good way, and in the end, I married the prince, got “edercated” and fixed a few things.  My New Year’s resolution will be to give up introspetion. But I break all those resolutions, so what the hell. I’m the director, and when I yell “cut”, I’ll just re-take the scene. Happy New Year, and write on!

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