Our brains are complex machines…
And somewhat flawed. But I guess we have to be, or else we would go nuts in our crazy world. You see, our minds are partially running on emotion, and partially on logic. The problem is…
The emotional side is in control (in most people, anyway).
We make decisions based on emotion, and then we try to justify them afterwards with logic. Whatever choice we make, poor old logic has to come up with a good explanation of why everything went wrong.
Unfortunately, logic has one more limiting factor:
We don’t want to experience it. It sucks. From a very young age we are taught “to be good, and not get into trouble”. We are reprimanded and scolded for our mistakes, so we end up hating making mistakes. We resent it.
So whatever happens in our lives, and whatever poor choices we make, logic has to make it look good.
And logic, like any good advocate, usually does a pretty decent job. Since you are obviously not to blame, it lies the blame elsewhere: Events, circumstances, people, unforeseen changes in your environment, etc.
At the end of the day, we find ourselves vindicated by (our own) logic…
There’s a good reason why everything went wrong, and it isn’t your fault. And even if it is, it is because circumstances left you no other options to choose from, and no other course of action.
At the end of the day, logic “justifies” your mistakes.
Because mistakes are associated with pain. Your emotional side tries to avoid pain at all costs.
In terms of self-preservation and survival instinct, it’s a pretty good system. It does its job well. Very well, in fact.
And the very fact that it does its job so well, becomes a problem in itself, because…
As long as you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting. Nature loves balance. Preserve the status quo at all cost.
Sorry, but that’s just the way life works. But since the system (of logic working out all your mistakes to absolve you from any blame) works so well, it’s easy to just leave it to do its job.
I know I did. For many years.
My life was a complete and utter mess, and I was a victim. It never even occurred to me that I messed my life up with a long chain of poor choices…
But I did.
And only when I got to the point where I was able to own up to my poor choices, was I able to regain some measure of control.
But a funny thing happened…
The more I accepted responsibility for my own choices, the less I felt like a victim (ok, and more like a fool…:).
And the less I felt like a victim, the more I started looking for real solutions to my problems. The moment I was able to put my emotions aside and face reality, things became a lot clearer. Yes, I still had plenty of challenges to overcome, but I chose to work through them and get my life back.
I now do things a lot differently from how I did things in the past. It wasn’t a single major change – it’s just that, over time, I found that some things simply didn’t work for me any more, and I found better ways of doing things.
I did, however, establish two things in the process:
1. Stop worrying about feeling guilty after making a mistake, or about mistakes you made in the past. You made the mistake, and you can’t undo it (sorry, that button doesn’t exist in real life). BUT you can choose to learn from it. If you do, a mistake or a bad decision becomes a learning experience that allows you to grow.
2. If you want things in your life to change, you will have to change things in your life. Einstein (pretty smart guy, last time I checked) said that doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, is madness.
This is what worked for me – and maybe it can work for you too:
1. Accept that even though things happen, your reaction is a choice. Choices can be right or wrong, but the moment you accept that you have control over your choices, you gain a lot more control over your life. From there, mistakes and poor choices become stepping stones to a better life.
Sometimes recovering from a mistake can be uncomfortable or painful – but the sooner you accept that you have to work through it, the easier it will be.
2. Back away from negative thoughts. It’s not as simple as it sounds, but it’s do-able – and it’s crucial. The more time you spend on negative thinking, the less time your mind has available to apply itself to finding a solution.
3. Accept that your future is in your hands. Yes, there may be circumstances slowing you down, but by sheer persistence, almost everything can be overcome. And even though you may have to connect with other people to make your dreams happen, it is still up to you to connect with them, or place yourself in front of them. Make your future your own responsibility.
Always remember: If you want anything done properly, do it yourself. That goes for your own life as well.
4. Next, map out the route that your life will need to take in order to bring your to your destination (your ultimate goal). What do you need to do, in what sequence, and who/what do you need to make it happen?
5. Break it all down into bits and pieces small enough to accomplish on your own. Create a series of short term goals, which, when strung together, add up to take you to your long term goal. Make each section small enough to put it within your reach.
Lastly, start working through your list of intermediate goals – one after the other. Just keep going.
Personally, I am nowhere near where I want to be in life (I aim very, very high…) – but this approach has taken me away from being a chronic, permanently miserable failure, on a road of continuous growth, to a point where I am now seeing more and more positive things happening faster and faster, and more and more options and opportunities are opening up for me – simply because I chose to take control, and because I kept going.
I no longer feel like Moses looking at the promised land (knowing he would never be able to enter).
Every time I look back, I’m amazed at how far I have come. And for the first time in two decades, I am really, really excited about the future.