3) The key to getting over mistakes.
In my high school days, I used to obsess over mistakes that I’d made. I’d kick myself again and again. Why did I say that? Why didn’t I do this instead? How could I have done that so badly?
Like many people, I believed that kind of self-flagellation was motivational. How, if I didn’t beat up on myself, could I get inspired to move forward?
Unfortunately, again like many people, I was 100% wrong. Beating up on yourself is counter-productive. It lowers your esteem, makes you feel bad, and discourages you from trying to improve yourself. That’s very problematic because the only way to get better at anything is to try, fail, get up, brush yourself off, and try again. Then you repeat until you succeed. The most successful people do correct their course, but they don’t spend much time kicking themselves in the behind because they were off course to begin with.
So how do you get to that point in your life? For me, it began with accepting a subtle truth: “You always do the best you can right now.”
At first glance, that statement appears to be OBVIOUSLY incorrect. Does a bright student who fails a test because she didn’t study do the best that she can? Does a boxer who loses a fight because he showed up out of shape do the best that he can? The correct answer is, “Yes, they did do the best that they could at that moment.”
What this does is set off a chain of productive questions.
Take the student, for example. If she’s bright, how can it be that she got a “D” doing her “best”? Could she do better than that? Absolutely. How? By studying. Why hasn’t she been studying? Because she puts it off until late at night, gets tired, and doesn’t bother. So how could she improve her “best”? By setting an earlier, regular study time.
What’s more productive? Slapping yourself around for failing, or recognizing that your “best” wasn’t even as close to as good as you could be and trying to figure out how to improve?