Gratitude For Mistakes By Omission

Mistakes get a bad rap. I ought to be grateful for them. Unfortunately, I fear mistakes and resist them as much as possible. The irony is that this is yet another mistake. You can’t Bird Box your way through life. You can’t learn from something that you are unwilling to see. I have to be aware of what is coming in life and adjust to it. I don’t have to judge it, rail against it, scream at it, or rage against it. I have to acknowledge it and make necessary changes.
Refusing to change in the face of reality is a mistake that leads to sadness and misery. Wisdom often comes from mistakes and making a course correction the next time a similar opportunity takes place. Mistakes teach me how to be better. I believe that mistakes are my friend. Perhaps we are too close of friends, as I make many. However, mistakes are like the one friend that lets me know when there is something to improve.
Mistakes come in two forms, but this post will focus on the first. This type of mistake is called mistakes of omission – that is, I don’t take action when I ought and end up with a negative result. This comes from misjudging the importance of what I’m experiencing. Often I don’t take the activity seriously enough and get hit with the consequences. Then end up scrambling to take care of it before it gets any worse.
The other form of mistake by omission is when I overestimate an events importance and fear it, which makes me have an emotional breakdown – getting crushed and end up dealing with the situation inappropriately – often using the fight, flight, or freeze response. Now overwhelmed, my pessimistic imagination controls my perception instead of taking a critical eye to the event.
Fear seems to be a response to avoid pain in my life. This can be physical, emotional, or spiritual. If I view a thing as agonizing, it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not, present or not, or even how far into the future the struggle lies, I will sidestep. Brendon Burchard speaks of the roots of fear and pain in his book “High Performance Habits” and says that fear comes from pain in three ways: the fear of loss (which is a anticipated pain), the fear of process pain – that is, that the process of doing an activity will cause pain, and finally, that the end result will terminate in pain. For each of these, they refer to future injury, not present circumstance. This says to me that our mistakes of omission come from anticipated hurt, not the loss itself.
I may be grateful for mistakes because they teach me how to be better in the first place, but it is foolishness to run into mistakes that can be effectually bypassed. Therefore, if we have a way to manage or mitigate anticipated troubles—-that is, to prepare for the downside—-then we can reduce errors that don’t need to happen in the first place. Wisdom is the result of experience and to choose willful blindness is to invite self-inflicted pain.
Pain, it seems, comes from being outside our comfort zone. At the edge, I may feel discomfort or awkwardness, but when I leave the safety of that zone, the intensity of those feelings magnify. The farther out that I venture from my center, the more pain I experience. Yet, where that border lies is different for each person. Some may be used to physical pain, such as those that play sports or lift heavy weights, but emotional distress is another matter.
The best way to mold the fear, so that I don’t repeat the mistake of omission a second time, can be handled in a couple of ways. One, is to take two deep breaths in through the nose (using the diaphragm), and to breathe out slowly through the mouth. This activates the phrenic nerve, which moves thought from my mind’s emotional to logical center. Breathing this way for five to ten repetitions is enough to embrace a more positive frame of mind. A second way is to re-frame. Instead of fearing the experience, re-imagine it as an opportunity to learn, to add another ability my toolbox.
I am more willing to accept an event as a blessing if it serves me and rivets my attention on what it gives, instead of what it costs. To obtain that which I concentrate upon, I fixate on the beneficial. This change—-anticipating good results, latching onto the precious in the process, and focusing on the long-term positive benefits—-allows me to be grateful for the stumbles as well as my triumphs.

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