3 Tips to Stop Repeating Mistakes
Why do I keep doing that? Ever ask yourself this questions? No matter how level-headed we are, we all do things that we regret and we cannot understand what possesses us to do it - and then we do it again. There’s a rhyme and a reason. Our intellect usually does a pretty decent job of planning and assessing the pros and cons of our behaviors. Things get complicated when feelings get involved that change our thoughts and influence our judgment. Understanding our behaviors can be complex, but we need to start somewhere so, here are 3 ways to help us understand why we do what we do and hopefully get us to stop repeating our mistakes.
1 - Expand your “feelings” vocabulary – We all know about feeling happy, sad, and mad, but there are many other feelings out there that will influence how we act. Often times, it is our feelings that make us do things that we regret. Sun Tzu’s Art of War advises us to “know your enemy,” and although feelings are not bad, if they keep making us do regrettable things, they may be our enemy. We need to expand our feelings vocabulary in order for us to accurately define how we feel and know how to properly react. For example, imagine that you lose a competition so you feel disappointed in yourself. You’re not sure of labeling the feeling as “disappointment,” but you know that it feels similar to anger. So then you think, “gosh, I’m angry.” You then go home and yell at your child for making a mess because you were “already mad.” We want to make sure that our actions match with our feelings. We can only be what we know, so let’s expand our knowledge about our feelings so that we can act accordingly.
2 - Feel your feelings. A scary thing about getting in touch with your feelings is when you realize that the your feelings are “inappropriate,” or they may make you uncomfortable for having them. For example, your friend makes fun of your clothes. You laugh about it, but notice that you actually feel hurt. But you have “tough skin,” you’re no “wimp” and you shouldn’t feel hurt about anything so you decide to feel angry instead. You then become aggressive towards your friend and regret it later. Or you begin having feelings for someone you shouldn’t but instead of acknowledging it and keeping yourself away from precarious situations, you convince yourself that you don’t feel that way and that everything is fine. You then find yourself in a precarious situation and regret that you have to deal with the consequences. Be real with yourself and let yourself feel your feelings. Once you do, you can then process through them and take better control over them, instead of ignoring them and letting them take control of you. One way to do this is to write in a private journal so that you can get your feelings out, process it as you write, read it after it’s written, and continue writing and processing. Another option is to speak to a therapist, someone who takes your privacy seriously. The point is to take your feelings somewhere safe where you will be able to build understanding.
3 - Practice saying how you feel before acting how you feel – Once you become better at identifying your feelings, and you are comfortable with having them, you may still not want to jump right into reacting to them. When acting on a feeling, try saying what you are feeling first. Let’s use an argument with your partner as an example. Before yelling and accusing your partner of something, try saying how you feel first. “I feel really hurt because of what you did.” “I’m feeling quite angry.” “I feel disappointed.” It’s better to have a conversation about a difficult topic than it is to act out and deal with the repercussions of the actions afterwards. We can avoid the “I said a lot of things that I didn’t mean…” conversation because although that is a good one to have, sometimes the damage was already done. Also, if you express the feelings through only action and not words, chances are, your feelings will not be clearly expressed. Say how you feel, then act afterwards.
Get to know your feelings. Get to know them well. The more you understand and get in touch with them, the more you understand and get to know yourself. And the better you know how you work, the less likely you will repeat mistakes. So instead of wasting time and energy repeating mistakes and dealing with the consequences, you can use your skills and strengths to do great and amazing things – with no regrets.