Many people have written about the human condition because it fascinates people. It is fascinating and it changes as time goes on. Carl Rogers, as part of his people-centered therapeutic approach truly believed that all humans have the inherent need, ability and desire to improve themselves and become better people.
Stephen Covey, in his groundbreaking best seller the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, lamented the change in paradigm from character to personality. He stated, quite rightly in my opinion, that there has been a marked move away from ethical, value-based viewpoints where duty, service and work ethics were seen as important traits to one where manipulating aspects of one’s personality for profit or to appear something different is now prevalant. Many people in the modern age are just not willing to put in the hard work needed to reach a point of sustained achievement. Instant gratification, quick fixes and making easy money are what we expect and strive for with a huge sense of entitlement. Covey mentioned that this change has given rise to self-centeredness and narcissism on a grand scale.
Another personality trait very common today is perfectionism and the striving for perfection. As perfection doesn’t exist, this is a never ending quest for many. People are looking for the perfect job, relationship, situation, car, phone, hobby, etc. While striving to improve is never wrong, concentrating on the unrealistic gap between where you are and where you think you should be in a perfectionist manner will only ever bring constant disappointment.
One aspect of our lives that we often don’t tolerate is the making of mistakes. We all make them and they are a constant in our lives. We make small ones daily and occasionally bigger ones. Anyone who has made a decision in their lives has also made a mistake. We sometimes don’t forgive ourselves for these and are also sometimes not forgiven by the perfectionists around us. Once a mistake has been made, big or small, it is not the mistake that matters but how we approach it and subsequently deal with it.
Mistakes need to be classified. Small mistakes are just that, need to be accepted and moved on from. Many of us get hooked up on why we made a mistake and assign it to us as a person. Bigger mistakes can be trickier, especially when they affect other people. Mistakes are just that and have to be distinguished from conscious actions that affect others.
Mistakes are a valuable source of learning and when approached the right way can add to personal growth. While we spend a lot of time denying and defending, especially when the are brought to our attention, taking responsibility for what we did and recognising the impact on others can lead us to learning a lot about ourselves. If you are the type of person who fixates on mistakes, look at the following tips.
You are not your mistake. Generally, our mistakes mean nothing about us as a person though there is always the temptation to find a link. No-one is perfect and that is truly the case.
Be honest. After making a mistake, honesty is always the best policy, to the people around you and mostly to yourself. It is important to take full responsibility.
Recognise the impact. Are you totally sure of the impact your mistake had on others? Or are you over-estimating what you did?
Learn Lessons. Is there a way to fix the situation? If not, can you learn how to stop it happening again?
Forgive yourself. No-one on this planet is perfect and mistakes are a way of life. The more you assign them to your character, the more self-esteem and self-worth will be affected. Forgive yourself, the next mistake is surely just around the corner.