“There are no throwaways; you are not your last decision,” is what I think I heard the person being interviewed say as I scrolled through my Instagram feed yesterday…
I have made some really bad decisions in moments where it seemed as if I had more control and ability to make a better decision. In these moments that I am recollecting, there is nothing to point a finger at as to ‘why’ I did what I did. ‘I made a bad decision’ is the only outcome I can resonate with – no logical excuse to point a finger at as to ‘why’.
I am guessing that as long as I am breathing and interacting with others in this human life experience, mistakes will continue to be part of ‘day’.
As mentioned in previous blogs, when it comes to choice-making and behavior, what is observable can be measured in three ways: how often it happens, how long it lasts, and level of intensity. The outcomes of one’s behavior are one’s results, or data.
A few significant mistakes that stick out in my mind, that really got my attention, were made not only when I was ‘old enough to know better’, but on paper by my own estimations I was wise enough and practiced enough to know better. At the time, I was working my way through the depression and the space between episodes had grown into months. I had a regular Quiet Time established in the early morning which had several years of momentum behind it. I was implementing and teaching the practices I learned to both adults in professional development opportunities, and school-age children in classroom lessons – and had some years of momentum behind this as well. I had experience and skillsets to manage the situation, circumstance, event where I made the mistakes. It was confusing because on paper I should not have made the choices I made. I wondered why I had the reactions I had when, on paper, it appeared illogical. And the mistake I am speaking of happened more than once.
What I concluded was that in each of the situations, I owned my behavior. What this means is that I stated what I did like a fact, and even said what I felt – some version of ‘I don’t know why I did what I did, but I did it.’ I wasn’t necessarily as ashamed as I was surprised and confused. It didn’t make sense in my new life formula: if I did the right things, the bad decisions and mistakes should not happen, right?
I realized that bad decisions are part of life experience, it doesn’t have to mean you are bad or doing something ‘wrong’. To own bad decisions, and to state what happened without excusal or attempt to control the outcomes, models a behavior that is not often practiced.
The high stakes mistakes I am speaking of happened with elementary students, on the job. I owned the mistake right away. I was wholehearted and honest, and did it in the moment it happened. I also told the parent what I did with the child present. I can recall at least three of these situations. There could have been negative consequences in each, or it could have grown to something bigger than a simple apology. In each instance, nothing even changed. It was as if the episode was part of an organic unfolding of flow in ‘day’. I can say, after reflecting on it a lot back when it all happened or was happening, that I was certain I had established a genuine love for, and expansive belief in, the children I was working with at the time. I had established it with the parents as well, as they were young and could have been students of mine when I worked in the high school setting. My advice to those who work in a setting with children and ongoing problematic or explosive behavior: establish the connection first. A teacher once told me that her aunt, who had a lifetime career as a teacher, told her ‘find something to like about all the students, especially the most difficult ones.’ It’s probably true in all interpersonal connection, assuming one wants to grow in this area of humaning. The trick here is to learn to like another independent of the other liking you. It’s not easy.
I’m not proud of what I did which is why I am not sharing details. When I think back on a lifetime and the different things I have done, said, or even the ways I thought about people and all the different situations, circumstances, and events where I made poor decisions that led to observable mistakes; I wish I could go back, own each one, and move toward the discomfort in the same way I did in these more recent examples (which, for the record, were at least five years ago).
When you own your shit, it’s (sometimes) easier to have a broader interpretation when it comes to others and their decision-making. Remember, I’m talking about general day-to-day living and the ongoing situations, circumstances, and events that will continue to happen as long as we are breathing in our human suit of awesomeness.
If we own the day-to-day, even if it is just being truthful to our own self on the inside or in journal writing, maybe we could collectively lessen the frequency, duration, and intensity of the extreme mistake making. The possible side effect of this would be that the news may become a bit boring.
Care about yourself enough to notice the results that show up in your life. Your data. Or ‘day’ta. You can shift outcomes by shifting how you think about the day-ta. We only ever have to do ‘the next thing’.
You are not your last decision.