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Written by Vicki Hinze

On March 2, 2007

We now know the things we need:
1. A positive environment. (Mistakes We Make, Part 8)
2. To detach. (Mistakes We Make, Part 9)
3. To attract. (Mistakes We Make, Part 10)
4. Nurturing. (Mistakes We Make, Part 11)
5. Forgiveness. (Mistakes We Make, Part 12)

But we are not islands, and we are all subject to outside influences. Those influences can be productive or destructive, positive or negative. They can assist or hinder. What they do is up to us. We choose.

And if I’m hammering on that–we choose–in this series, it’s because so often I hear that past experience, circumstance has had a disproportionate amount of influence and impact on lives and the individuals fall to blaming those things and ignoring the fact that at junctures they made choices and those choices and not the influence is the reason they stand where they do today–emotionally and spiritually as well as physically.

So we choose how much and in what ways outside influences impact us. And knowing it is cues us to be above all discerning.

Mistakes are like opinions. Everybody’s got one. We can listen to everyone–and broadmindedness can be a whale of an asset so it is wise to listen to what others have to say. In doing so, we can gain wisdom from their challenges, experiences, from what they’ve learned. BUT that doesn’t mean that we listen and act on all we hear.

We listen, we process this new information or insight, we view it in relation to ourselves–our lives and beliefs and goals and, well, the entire package that comprises us. And we take the good that can come from that information/insight and incorporate it into our lives. But what doesn’t fit, isn’t in harmony with the whole of us, we do not take in. We don’t accept that portion or outside influence.

An example. We have a dream, goal or interest. Someone comes along and stomps it. And we let them. We back up or off and divert, no longer pursue that dream, goal or interest because we allow the stomper to convince us that this is what we should do. And when we take in that outside influence and let it alter our course, then we blame the stomper for the death of our dream.

Wait a second. What is wrong with this picture? We have shifted blame, responsibility for OUR actions to the stomper. We’ve taken US out of it. We have given the power of our decisions to direct our lives (for which we are accountable) to someone else.

This raises a number of questions, doesn’t it? Why do we do that? Why do we trust someone else’s judgment more than our own about OUR lives and OUR dreams? Why do we let this stomper drive our boat when we are the only person who has the blooming map? Of course, when we do this, then become lost at sea–because we’re following someone else’s path and not our own–we complain. And we blame the stomper.

Well, the truth is that it’s nice to be free from responsibility. But none of us are. It’s easier on our egos, our esteem, our hearts to have someone else to blame. But when we do it, we’re wrong: another mistake. It makes us feel better about ourselves to be able to justify our actions/inactions fault-free. But honestly, we’re not fault free. Not as adults.

As kids, some things happen to us that we can’t control. As adults, some things do, too. But the list is a lot shorter and we have to delude ourselves in that justification to pretend otherwise.

As kids, parents or other authority figures influence us and shape our thoughts. But as we mature, we start to shape and define ourselves. We choose what influences to keep and which ones to toss. We redefine old influences to better fit us. We are constantly growing and changing as a result of our own experiences and those of others. And we grasp that we are not the people we were, we are the people we’ve become. Who we have become, and will become in the future, is our choice. As adults, we are not free from outside influence but we are free to accept or reject the tenets of them.

What we take into our lives and make a part of it shapes our reality and that largely shapes our experiences. Using our judgment, trusting our instincts, understanding that outer influences can be powerful and potent and convincing and still be dead wrong for us is critical to our personal growth and attainment of the things we wish to attain in our lives.

Everything is not someone else’s fault. Everything good or bad or even indifferent. Our dreams and goals and interests and the discipline and dedication we exhibit in pursuing them is our responsibility. Our boat is ours to drive. And if we allow someone else–anyone else–to drive it, we are still at the helm and owner of the boat. And if we get lost or stomped hard, we do have a responsibility for it. Yes, we can be deceived. Yes, we can be used and abused. Yes, bad things can happen in which we have no control.

But in those things where we do have influence and make choices, we can’t spare ourselves our part in situations where we don’t like our positions. We can’t just toss the blame at someone else’s feet and absolve ourselves. We make choices, we make calls, we take the glory or the hits.

And because we do, we grow. We alter our experience and gain wisdom. We understand our errors because we’ve taken off the rose-colored glasses and viewed the results with clarity if not with enthusiasm. We’re better for it–and we make better decisions in the future. Ones that best serve us.

We’ve all known people who have experienced difficult times and made poor decisions. We’ve all known people who consider themselves victims of their past and readily accept outside influence because they don’t trust their own and they want absolution from accountability. And people who make poor decisions and work really hard to justify them and rationalize to make those decisions seem logical, sound and wise. At times, we’ve all been that person.

But with effort and discernment, we mature and grow and accept that we’re not perfect and we are going to make mistakes. And when we do, we own them. We take responsibility for the mistake, the fallout; our actions, ourselves. We determine to try to do better next and not make that same mistake again. And then we press on.

Sometimes we’re successful. Sometimes we’re not. But once we own our errors, we’re never lost to that same starting line we were at in the beginning. We’ve progressed, advanced. And in being honest with ourselves, open to outside influence but discerning on what we adopt–accept or reject–we’re increasing the likelihood of having to endure as many repeat errors. Errors that take our time and focus away from new experiences.

Some outside influencers–many we deeply respect–insist we must do things their way because it is the only right or successful way. If this influencer has been successful taking a specific road, we can see why they’d insist that, and we might even be tempted to agree blindly. But we should not.

A lifetime of experiences and personal growth and choices made that person exactly who they were when they walked that path. And that path existed then. Things change. So what was right then could be wrong now. Or wrong for us. Or perhaps not even wrong, just not the best path for us to take.

That’s where our judgment comes in and our need to discern to determine conditions then and now and our wisest course of action. Of course, our own internal influences will be mixing it up in there, exerting their desires and we need to stay aware of that, as well.

There are many roads one can travel to the same destination. One of the challenges I have seen too often is where a person chooses a path outside the box because it makes him or her feel empowered and more in control and not because taking the path that’s outside the box is the best path to take. When that happens, it’s just another form of personal rebellion against the person’s life. Rebelling for the sake of rebelling requires a lot of energy for little return. The person isn’t better or worse off being outside rather than inside the box. So what they end up with is being different. Different carries its own challenges. Yet we must remember that empowerment/control the person gains by being outside the box. It holds value to that person. While it might be more beneficial to deal with the issues requiring it, put them in their rightful place and move forward without them, sometimes that’s easier said than done. Some lack the strength or will to do it. And some just aren’t yet ready to do so.

My point in sharing that is to caution against judging others’ paths. We might see well someone is about to make a mistake that will cost them dearly. But unless advice is sought and then shared, and unless that person chooses to take that advice, the advisor must recall that the individual seeker will bear the brunt and responsibility for the decision made and it should be his or hers. You might know it’s going to cause pain or challenges. You might share that with this individual. But presenting the opportunity to gain that insight is where your involvement ends. The decision isn’t yours and since you can’t literally crawl into someone else’s skin and know all of the thousands of details that lead him or her to decide what s/he has, you shouldn’t judge.

Honestly, we have enough to deal with in ourselves.

When I was about to become a parent for the first time, my dad and I were talking. He said he’d made some mistakes in parenting and went on to list them. I said, “I’m going to try really hard not to make those same mistakes.” He chuckled. “Don’t worry, you won’t. You’ll make different ones.”

He was right. 🙂

And I guess that’s the bottom line on mistakes. We will make them. We can learn from others’ and avoid making some they made. But we will make others.

We can’t expect that we won’t err. We can expect that when we make mistakes, we will cope far better with them and the fallout they create if we face them openly and constructively.

I hope that in some small way this series has shared tools that do that.



Vicki Hinze
©2007, Vicki Hinze


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