Thursday, March 22, 2012

Growing From Mistakes

I love that saying about how it's good to learn from the mistakes of others, because I will never live long enough to make them all myself. It's so true!

Mistakes are okay. When I stop to think about it, I have learned a great deal from the mistakes I've made. Here are a few important things I've learned along the way so far:
  • Don't get married too young. Really being independent first is a good idea.
  • Find work that makes your heart sing, because money alone is not enough.
  • Stand up for yourself. You need to be your own best advocate, always.
  • You can't expect anybody to make you happy. You can, however, make yourself happy, and share it with someone else.
  • Everybody needs their own stress management plan.
  • Couples need date nights and sacred time together.
  • You are stronger than you think you are.
  • You can't possibly please everybody.
  • Friends are incredibly important.
  • It's better to not use credit cards. Live within, or under, your income.
  • Ask for what you really want from other people. It greatly improves your chances of getting it.
  • Time is often more important than money.
  • You have to take on some things that scare you in order to grow.
Have any of your mistakes taught you a valuable lesson that you carry with you? I bet you can think of a few things.

We need to be able, ideally, to acknowledge our mistakes, both to ourselves, and to anyone else who affected by them. One of my favorite children's books is "Nobody's Perfect, Not Even My Mother." In truth, nobody is perfect, and it makes us more approachable and real to those we are closest to when we can own our mistakes and not blame others. You can even own your own special contribution to a bad situation that involves others. It means you are a good role model for your children about humility, integrity, and taking responsibility.

As parents, we also need to teach our children that mistakes are something we grow from. We do this by staying calm, not freaking out or overreacting, and involving the child in helping to repair the damage or deal with the natural consequences of a bad choice. For example, this is why I don't want parents of teens to protect their children from detentions at school for tardies or dress code violations, or prevent them from getting dropped from a team for attitude. Better that high school students learn now, and not wait to learn these lessons until later.

The reason I want parents to remain calm is that it throws the whole life lesson thing off if you are screaming and red-faced. They just think you are nutty, and the lesson is lost. We can't wrap our children in bubble wrap. They get stronger from accepting consequences, whether good or bad.

I recently found a interesting book compiled by actor/producer Charles Grodin, called "If I Only Knew Then...." (Springboard Press, 2007). In it, Grodin, as well as other writers, producers, actors, and newsmakers each write a few pages about something they learned from a mistake. I found it heartwarming to read each of them opening up and being honest about something essential they had learned through a mistake.

One of my favorite stories in Grodin's book was Lily Tomlin's. Lily shared about regretting not canceling a show at Kennedy Center to attend the Oscars and do a spoof where she was invited to appear on stage in Cher's noteworthy bare-midriff and feather headdress outfit the year after Cher wore it. She feels like she missed a peak moment of irony and fun out of obligation to not reschedule the other show. Lily wishes she had followed her heart and been a part of Oscar history. Her take-away lesson was to "take your one wild and precious life, and fly." Now that's a great life lesson.

Maybe mistakes are really okay, and a part of the plan for our individual development. Getting the lesson out of it is the key part, so we don't need to learn the lesson over and over. Mistakes are what we grow on.

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