Resistance Archives

Don’t Let Your Mistakes Hold You Back

We’re all human, and we all make mistakes, whether you’re a parent, a surgeon, or whatever it is you do in life.

Recently, I got involved with a program to trap feral cats, bring them to the Humane Society to be fixed, checked-over, and vaccinated. They are then released back to where they were trapped.

I set a trap in our backyard. The cat I caught appeared to be one the neighbor kids had tamed enough to handle. They considered it their pet. The woman from the feral cat program took the caged feline to the clinic. After the procedure, on her way out, the carrier fell apart and the cat ran away. That was 7 miles away from where we had trapped the cat.

I was crushed. In my mind, I could still see the little neighbor girl hugging that cat. I had played a part in losing her beloved pet.

This got me thinking. As our positive impact on other people’s lives increases, so does the impact of our mistakes. I think that’s why many of us fear stepping up. Think of a surgeon who’s unintended mistake disfigures someone for life.

Does this mean we should avoid taking on work that has bigger impact in our world. Absolutely not. But if you’ve been avoiding going to the next level in your work, this may be a factor. Many people feel much more comfortable letting others take the risks. It’s easier to sit back and envision how much better you would have done than the person who actually took the risk.

To go grow in our work, we may need to learn to deal with mistakes in healthier ways. We’ll want to face our mistakes and process them. Realizing that we need to mourn what happened, come to terms with the fact that we’re human and make mistakes, and learn to relate with others concerning our mistakes, especially those who are impacted by them. And, of course, we’ll want to learn from our mistakes.

As we become more comfortable with dealing with mistakes, we will no longer be held back by fearing them.

I could quit the feral cat program all together. Or I could continue to be involved and process my emotions about the incident—forgiving myself, allowing myself to mourn, and preparing myself to talk with the little girl if the lost cat is indeed the one she had adopted as her friend. And here’s what I learned. I no longer plan to put a trap in my backyard where there’s a higher risk of catching someone’s pet. Instead, we will place the traps near dumpsters where many feral cats hang out for food.

How do you feel about your mistakes? Is your attitude towards them limiting you from taking part in your world to your fullest?

Image Credit: Vlado /

Making Room

I realized one of the reasons I used to not be able to accomplish my goals was because I thought I was supposed to cram my goals in with the rest of my life. The idea of making room for my goals didn’t become clear to me until I took Christine Kane’s Uplevel Your Life course. The messages I had gotten before that course were that I needed to be more efficient, that I could do more than I thought I could, and that I really didn’t need as much sleep as I thought.

So I’d try cramming in actions toward a goal. I’d eventually get tired of pushing, and I’d let go of the goal, not understand why I wasn’t able to stick with it. Other times, I would never even get around to taking any action toward a goal.

Now, I look at my schedule realistically, at least most of the time. When I decide I’m going to work on a goal, I look at what I can take out of my schedule to make room for it. When I first started doing this, I wasn’t sure what to let go of. Everything in my life seemed important. So I just started taking actions toward my goal and watched what things dropped out of my schedule from me not having time to get to them. This approach helped to clarify what was important to me. Most things I dropped were fine being dropped.

As time went on, I became clearer about my priorities and could schedule ahead what I would drop to make room for a current goal. I now check in periodically and ask myself if there’s anything I wish I had done toward a goal but haven’t. If there is, then I look back at my schedule and ask myself what I would have dropped to make room. Sometimes, I realize there’s nothing I wanted to drop. This brings me into reality about the pace I’m willing to work on that goal. Other times, I realize what I could have dropped and plan to drop it in the future.

Recently, I met a woman who grew up in Denmark during World War II. She lived in a rural area. During the Christmas season, they did the minimum amount of work possible on the farm. They made sure the animals had what they needed to survive, but dropped every task they could for the holiday season. This gave them time to enjoy their families and holiday activities.

It may sound silly, but I never thought of doing that during my holiday season. Instead, I tried cramming in the Christmas shopping and feeling resentful about “having” to do all these extra activities for the holidays. This Christmas season, I’m consciously looking at what activities I can pull out of my schedule to make room for holiday fun. This feels so much better!

In the past, I’ve wanted more time to do the things I love to do—art, writing, being in nature, design, and belly dancing. But I was so busy doing the things I thought I was supposed to do—keeping a budget, cleaning, working full-time, doing personal growth work, etc.—I had little time left over to do what I really loved. I kept looking for ways to put less time into my responsibilities and more into the activities I wanted. Years went by and nothing changed.

Then I decided to reverse my approach. I would do the things I love to do first and then figure out how to fit in my responsibilities later. Since I was giving myself less time to do my responsibilities, necessity became the impetus for solving this dilemma. I got creative on how to get my responsibilities done in less time and with less effort. I decided I no longer needed to keep a detailed, to-the-penny budget—a more general budget would work just fine. I paid my landlord’s cleaning lady to wash my floors, which was something I could afford. Prior to this, I thought hiring a cleaning lady was an all or nothing deal.

My goal is to get my responsibilities so streamlined, they’ll function as easily as these guys dismantling and rebuilding a jeep in 4 minutes.

After I made this switch, I was surprised at what came up. When I put more time into what I really wanted, I noticed I started experiencing fear. Some of the things I love to do have scary aspects to them. I’m afraid my writing, art, and design won’t be that good, or people won’t receive it well. Belly dancing in front of a crowd can certainly be scary. Staying home and cleaning or working on a budget always felt safe. It wasn’t until I took this new approach, that I realized fear was hiding beneath my excuse of being too busy with my responsibilities to get to the the activities I said I loved.

Now, I’m working with the fear that’s coming up. I actually use my responsibilities to manage my fear. When I feel like I need a break from fear, I pull out a safe, responsible to-do. The other day I oiled the squeaky doors in our house. It was easy, and I got instant results. This makes me feel more grounded and confident so I can go back, with renewed strength, to face what I’m currently afraid of.

It’s amazing how it can all work together. Before, my responsibilities were inhibiting me from doing what I loved. Now, my responsibilities are actually supporting me in doing the things I love to do.

Being a Beginner Again

Have you ever set aside an activity you love for a period of time and found that later it was difficult to start back up again? Over the years, I’ve drawn and painted. In 2007, I did lots of watercolors of everyday things in my life. Here’s a hotdog I had for lunch.

Then in 2008, we built a green home. That became my giant art project. We lived next door to the the work site. I was constantly there and put in an average of 60 hours a week. During that time, I decided to temporarily set aside my painting.

I didn’t get back to painting again until recently. I discovered that if I try to return to an activity where I left off, I end up feeling frustrated and resist doing it. Since I hadn’t practiced painting for a long period, I was rusty. I compared my new paintings to my old and felt discouraged. Also, I found that going back and doing something the same way as I did before isn’t as exciting as doing something new.

So, with my art, I took a weekend-long 2 dimensional design class. I’d never taken a design class before. I felt like a beginner. It was so freeing, fun, and adventurous. The work I created was different than what I had ever done. It felt good to let go and just do what I was drawn to do rather than trying to make myself continue with what I had been doing in 2007.

Steve Jobs, co-founder and current CEO of Apple, at one time was fired from Apple. Here’s what he said about that experience in his 2005 commencement address at Stamford. “…getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

If I feel resistance to returning to an activity, taking the approach of being a beginner and choosing what I want to do a fresh, without feeling obligated to what I did before, works really well.

Recently, we spent a month in France and Italy. When I did my travel paintings, I approached them differently. In the 2 dimensional design class, we did abstracts. This inspired me paint what I saw more abstractly. I loved it. It was a fun challenge to paint so simply. I’m excited to continue to experiment with this style.

If I hadn’t had let myself start again fresh as a beginner, I wouldn’t have come up with these paintings that make me so gung ho to do more. It’s given me new vitality.

Now, if I ever resist returning to another activity, I’ll remember to be a beginner again.

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