Have you ever found yourself in the same unworkable situation time after time? You think you made progress, then you find yourself right back where you were?
I have a client that continues to make the same mistake over and over. She has been trying to leave a toxic relationship, yet she keeps going back. She knows there are dire consequences, yet she does it anyway. Then she calls me for damage control.
If we touch a hot stove, our brain sends a signal of “danger” and next time we see a hot stove, we will stay away. But this doesn’t always happen in life. We allow our fears and insecurities to cause us to repeat patterns that don’t work. Our lessons don’t stick.
Fear of loneliness, fear of failure, and fear we are not enough, keep us stuck in negative cycles.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over then expecting a different result. Our drive to avoid pain or gain pleasure is stronger than the flashing “danger” message in our brain.
When we make poor choices, we are usually allowing our feelings to have control over us. Our emotions are in charge and we rationalize and justify our behavior. We see the little angel on our shoulder saying, “I wouldn’t do this if I were you!” But we make a sensible argument to do what we want to do and off we go down the path again.
My son was studying for a huge test last week. His teacher gave him lessons that would help him ace the test. He studied hard and got an A.
Just like in school, we need to study our lessons from the past. What worked and what didn’t work? What do we need to do to achieve a different result?
When we stop to reflect, we can move powerfully into the future armed with a new plan. And when we get tested, we will get an A.
Reflection is that an image is “bounced” off of an object in such a way that it can be seen from a different angle. Sometimes we need to step back from our life in order to get a new perspective.
George Washington gave us great advice, “We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience”
Experience is a valuable teacher. Learn from the past, then turn the page and move to the next chapter. Don’t obsess or over-process. Get what you need and move on.
You can allow your past to define you, destroy you, derail you, and scare you. Or you can allow your past teach you how to create an amazing future. But don’t regret the past, because sometimes the wrong choices bring you to the right places.
The world’s most successful people use reflective thinking as a tool to up their game. They set aside time to stop, process, make decisions and formulate plans. They learn from their errors and use the information to make smarter choices in the future. Reflective thinking makes them wiser.
Here is an exercise that will help spark your reflective thinking:
Sit down in a quiet place. Think about an something in your life that is not working or an experience that produced a negative result. Then ask yourself these questions…
What is the cost of this? (Time, energy, suffering, anxiety, frustration, love, connection, success, etc)
What can I learn from this?
What do I need to do to change this or prevent it from repeating?
What obstacles will face?
How will I overcome those obstacles?
How will I feel when I change this aspect of my life and/or eliminate this pattern?
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. Make a decision to do something different. Upgrade your life and get more of what you want. If not now, when?