“I will make better mistakes tomorrow.” This was a quote I read on someone’s T-shirt the other day, and it has resonated with me and stuck in my mind.
Any way you slice it, we are human, and that implies that we are not immune to making mistakes. But, what exactly counts as a mistake? Who determines which actions are mistakes, and which ones aren’t? You can view an individual’s life as a series of choices that eventually turn into a unique pathway. Along the way, there undoubtedly were a lot of potential swerves and alternate pathways. And some of those probably resulted in setbacks, large and small. When the outcome of a step made makes a person feel negative emotions, that is usually a sign to double back onto that original road. This misstep is then viewed as a “mistake” by the traveler. Once we recognize it as such, we often feel regret, anger, sadness, guilt and disappointment.
What is the purpose of these emotions? I think they serve as teachers, reminders not to conduct similar behavior in the future to avoid similar consequences. For instance, our pain receptors teach us early in life not to do stuff that hurts us physically (burn ourselves on hot surfaces, scrape/bruise ourselves, etc.). So in a way, emotions, like the perception of pain, are self-defense mechanisms. Sometimes, however, this mechanism works in overdrive and causes imbalances. We get so eaten up with guilt and regret, that we cannot let go and move ahead.
I recently realized that the only person you could ever disappoint, betray, or otherwise let down, is yourself. We may get angry and take it out on others, but that is really a projection of what we our feeling for ourselves at that moment. The phrase “you have no one to blame but yourself” comes to mind. What messes a lot of people up are expectations. We have this vision in our heads of what outcome we want, and plan it out, and get excited. And if it depends to any extent on other people (and a lot of things in this world involve relating to other human beings), we get upset with them if something goes wrong. But in reality, we cannot expect other people to do what we want. We can’t count on them to act a certain way or live up to a certain standard. So placing too much value or trust in their hands is the mistake on our part. The involvement of another person to your plans places the circumstances out of your control, and it strips you of power. You are not vulnerable to the actions of this other person, and you only have your faith and intuition to help guide you to people worthy of your trust. So when things don’t work out as planned, you cannot blame the other people involved. You can only blame yourself for trusting them, and draw conclusions to withdraw that trust in the future.
On the other side of that coin, we often misplace our frustrations with ourselves into unhealthy outlets. I am a chronic procrastinator and constantly running late; I am a night owl that come morning regrets not going to bed earlier the night before; I am a people pleaser and have trouble saying no. All of these things result in me thinking ill thoughts and being frustrated/mad/annoyed. Instead of recognizing that I am hurting myself, I project my frustrations on my surroundings. Instead of admitting our faults, we make excuses and get angry. In order to face our own issues, we need to analyze why we are getting angry with others. Admitting we were wrong is hard, but it is so much harder to live in denial and misplaced emotions, (not to mention it may snowball into huge anger management issues later on).
This may sound cynical, but it is meant to be therapeutic. Things can only change when we overcome denial and recognize that it is a problem. So in the end, we are all responsible for our destinies. Sadly, we cannot count on (most) other people (although there is light at the end of the tunnel: there will be people you can count on, few and far between), unless they prove themselves worthy by their actions. We should try to be self-sufficient to avoid the pain of high expectations from others. We should also pay close attention to the consequences of our actions, so we can react quickly to rectify situations which may become unfavorable. And we should accept the fact that we are human and imperfect, and the only thing we can count on is that mistakes will happen from time to time.
So, I will make better mistakes tomorrow. That is a vow to myself.