In my work as a counselor, people come to me all the time after they have made a mistake. These mistakes include having an affair, being angry at their child for years, or finally coming clean about an addiction - you name it. Sometimes people dig in and do the work to make things better, and other times people only come see me once or twice but leave before any real work can start happening.
I used to think that the patients who finished counseling with me were the ones who were more likely to be successful at overcoming their mistakes. But the more years I practice, I've come to realize a lot of the people who finish counseling aren't necessarily successful at overcoming their mistakes. I have discovered that there's a whole different recipe to overcoming mistakes and challenges in your life more than just talking about them: you have to embrace them.
Here are 3 things to remember when ready to embrace your mistakes:
1. Humans usually do what is easiest
As humans, we are creatures of habit. We shop at the same grocery store week after week, we take the same route to and from work every day, and we usually go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. We like our routines because they are predictable and reliable. We've done them several times before and we know what outcome we're going to get from them.
Embracing your mistakes on the other hand, is anything but predictable or reliable. Because you're not used to doing it, you don't know what outcome to expect. And as humans who thrive on reliability and predictability, doing something with an uncertain outcome is scary. So you'd rather shy away from it than confront it.
2. Embracing your mistakes is not easy
Embracing your mistakes is anything but easy. And it's not easy because it's not something you do very often - if at all. As a human, you'd rather keep doing what you're doing that's getting you by okay. Embracing your mistakes requires you to take a good, honest look at yourself, warts and all, and be willing to change.
As a human, you are infinitely complex and multifaceted. So when you take a good, honest look inside yourself, you never know what you're going to find. Looking at yourself is unpredictable and risky. There are all sorts of dark corners inside you that you've never seen. And instead of looking at them, it's easier to shove them back into that dark place and pretend they don't exist.
Give yourself permission to look inside yourself and see your dark places. Don't worry, you'll be okay. It's the good and courageous part of you that allows yourself to go there. It's the dark places that want you to stop looking because they don't want you to know they exist.
When you embrace that good and courageous part that allows you to look at your dark places, then you'll know you're on the right track to correcting your mistakes.
It's hard. And not many people do it. But after you've done it, you'll be a different person. And that person will know better now. You'll have experiences that not many others have. With this newfound experience, you'll find that you're in a much better place personally. When you find that better place, you'll find that those old mistakes you used to make are no longer around, either. You've embraced them. And that's what made them go away.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.