Be Strong and Courageous!
Over the next 2 weeks, I am exploring principles of mental and spiritual strength. I will share characteristics that strong people exhibit and ways in which you can cultivate them in your own life.
Characteristic #9 – Strong People Don’t Make The Same Mistake Twice
What was your first big fail? When I was a kid I set my eyes on the winning the Girl Scout cookie sales prize. The Girl Scouts gave a big award to the scout who sold the most boxes of cookies and I was all over it. I walked the neighborhood each day after school, knocking on doors and pushing Thin Mints (they are so good in the freezer!).
At the next troop meeting, I was ready to share my progress. A better way to phrase it would be I was eager to show all the other girls in the troop that I was one to catch because I had my eyes on the prize. And then another scout named Megan shared her cookie box sales report. I don’t remember the exact number now, but I do remember that it was at least three times more than I sold. I was devastated. There was no way to catch her. The prize was out of reach. I failed.
Mentally and spiritually strong people don’t make the same mistake twice. Rather, they learn from their mistakes. My mom exhibited great wisdom in this moment. She pointed out all I had accomplished and invited me to reflect on what I could do the next year. We brainstormed a list, including expanding the number of neighborhoods I visited and making signs. She also, gently, pointed out that Megan’s mom cared more about that prize than Megan, selling cookies out of her trunk. I’m not bitter.
But it turns out that those powerful emotions, that we can easily access decades later, are the key to learning from our mistakes and not repeating them. Stephanie Vozza published an article in Fast Company featuring research published in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making that the best way to learn from mistakes is to feel the pain. In other words, when we allow ourselves to sit with the sadness, anger, and frustration we become motivated to avoid it in the future.
Our tendency is to analyze the failure, looking at the data and evaluating the strategy and execution. And certainly these are helpful practices. But if our process stops at the intellectual review then we are not sufficiently motivated to change. While we can understand where we went wrong, our habits and default behaviors will lead us right down the same path.
Rather, strength comes from leaning into the pain and allowing it to motivate us to change. We can intellectually buy in to the need to put money into savings for a rainy day. When faced with the moment of choosing something we want, like a daily $5.25 Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino, or putting $100 each month in the savings account we will choose the Frappuccino because it makes us feel good. Until that moment when the car needs a major repair and the savings account is dry. The we feel the worry as we figure out what to do and the pain of riding our bike to work every day.
Experts agree that the way to move past repeating mistakes is to all yourself to feel the pain and then redeem it by moving forward with concrete actions. Just as Jonah did when he ran the other direction from Nineveh, directly against God’s instructions. Intellectually, Jonah articulated a sound rationale for not bringing the good news to the people of Nineveh. And if left with that rationale, he would have kept going in the other direction.
I don’t think Jonah had to reflect long on the feeling of being caught in a terrifying storm, spending 3 days in the (stinky) belly of a huge fish, and then being spit out on shore. His song in chapter two gives us a glimpse into the depths and breadth of his emotions. He expresses loneliness, distress, and abandonment. Powerful emotions that we want to avoid. God delivers Jonah from the belly of the fish and calls him again to go to Ninaveh. Jonah does not make the same mistake; Jonah goes.
Spiritually and mentally strong people learn from their mistakes by leaning into what it feels like to fail. Motivated by the desire to avoid that pain again, we make a plan to move forward in a new direction.
Your Story Matters is a course we offer at Younique that will guide you through mapping your story. This is can be a very emotional experience as we revisit our failures and interpret them. While all of us have experienced our story, very few of us have interpreted our story. And even fewer of us can articulate our story in such a way that it highlights how God is moving in and through our story.
I would love to hear how you interpret your mistakes to learn from them. How are moving through the pain to new life? firstname.lastname@example.org. Be strong and courageous!