Find the Gift in the Mistake
Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.
– Carl G. Jung
Not every AFGO – another frickin’ growth opportunity – has a gift hidden within it, but most of them do. We can learn lessons from coping with a potential trauma that we might not have learned otherwise.
I’ve written of learning from my own AFGO’s in several posts:
*Dumping my computer in the ocean – learning the value of consistent resilience training and the resourcing of competent, caring people
*My cats on the loose for a week while I was teaching on the East Coast – the treasure of neighbors who kept them alive and near the house until I could find them and bring them home.
*My accelerator pedal getting stuck driving 60 mph on the freeway – a great reminder that anything is a cue to practice resilience.
Our brain rewires from the experience of making a mistake and learning lessons from that mistake. What did I not see? What could I have done differently? What can I do differently now?
We find ways to redeem the potentially tragic, to find the silver lining. Here’s a simple exercise to help you train your brain to, as the neuroscience writer Jonah Lehrer says, “turn a regrettable moment into a teachable moment.”
1. Begin small. Remember one not-overwhelming occasion when things went very, very wrong and you were still able to discover something right – in your response, in other people’s response, in an outcome you never could have predicted. This may be something as simple as, If I hadn’t missed my flight, I wouldn’t have run into an old college friend at the airport. Or If I hadn’t been looking for my wallet I wouldn’t have discovered Timmy’s old teddy bear under the bed. The gift or the right doesn’t have to be as large in scale as the mistake or the wrong. Just something to redeem the event or to learn from the event. Sometimes the learning is that there can be gifts even in disasters.
2. Re-frame another time when things went wrong and you honestly didn’t’ think any good came out of it at all. Still look for lessons you could learn now, what a different response might have been then. How could more response flexibility have helped, even if it didn’t happen that way at the time. Find the learning in the AFGO and learn that you can.
By finding any lessons in your response to the event itself, you can strengthen your response flexibility for future similar events. Another important way the brain itself learns to be resilient.