|Just a few more thoughts about ‘the next time’
In our column last week, we talked about the conversation we often have with ourselves when we make one of those bonehead mistakes we often make. It goes something like this: “How could I have been so stupid?!” Our brain then exclaims, “I know! Don’t you remember what you did yesterday?” “Oh Yeah…I remember that!” “And last week! That was really stupid, too!” “Oh yeah! I had almost forgotten that.” “And…you were the slowest reader in the second grade! You remember that, too…don’t you?” “Oh yeah…I had almost forgotten that too!”
We almost pull out a mental list of all the dumb things we have done and then review the list.
But remember this, your brain is recording these memories as if they were brand new…as if they had just happened. It doesn’t know they happened a day ago, a month ago or a year ago. And then…we carry those new memories around with us.
So, I then suggested a new way to think, especially when you make your next mistake today.
First, when you make that mistake: if necessary, make a mental note of what you did wrong and learn from it; feel really bad for no more than 15 seconds; and then say “That is not like me anymore. The next time, I intend to.” and create a picture in your mind of how you want to be the next time.
As the best way to teach is through real-life stories, so here are a couple of them I have used in my seminars.
When I taught this principle to a career transitions class in a local college, Tonya, one of my students, stopped me the next day in the hall with brightness in her eyes I had never seen before. She told me that for years, when she and her husband argued, they would tear each other down emotionally.
They had started an argument after she had arrived home after learning this principle. When he began tearing into her (as always), she held her hand up and quietly declared, “Stop! That is not like me anymore!” He just stood there staring at her with a very puzzled look in his eyes. When he began to tear into her again, she repeated the same statement. (She had to do this three more times!) Finally, the anger between both of them gradually subsided and her husband asked, “What in the world are you talking about?” As they talked and grew, he in turn learned to protect his own self-image by not allowing her to tear into him.
I saw them about six months after she had graduated, and they told me that their arguing had taken a complete turnaround. They still argue at times, but now, as they said, “We fight fair.” It turned the relationship around.
My own story
About five years ago I was teaching at a college during the day, and being it’s evening Dean at night. I had just purchased a wallet at a large shopping mall. I was walking back to my car just as the sun was setting. A few seconds after I stepped off the curb into the parking lot, I heard and felt a huge “WUUMPH!!” in the small of my back, and found myself flying in the air. I then heard a girl scream, “Oh my God, I’ve hit someone…I hit someone!” As I lay face down on the parking lot, I said to myself, “I think I’ve been hit by a car.”
The next voice I heard was, “Hello, my name is Alma, and I’m a paramedic. I’ve already called for the ambulance and it’s on its way. Don’t move…you’ll be alright!”
As I lay there sprawled out on the parking lot, my first thought was, “Wait a minute. I can’t be hurt, I’ve got my favorite class to teach tomorrow!” (That class is the one you are learning in this column.)
I then thought my wife Mary should know that I just got hit by a car, so I lifted my head slightly and asked Alma to call my wife, and gave her Mary’s cell phone number. I also asked Alma to call the college and tell them that I would not be at work that night.
When the ambulance arrived, they bundled me up and rushed me to the hospital. As we drove, the paramedics checked my vitals, started an IV and asked me various questions to determine my lucidity.
After determining I was stable, one of the paramedics exclaimed, “Wow! You really did a number on that car.” When I asked what she meant, she said that the entire front of the car was smashed in, including the windshield. “With what?” I asked.
She exclaimed, “With the back of your head!” “What does the back of my head look like?” “Like a skinned knee!”
When Mary and our daughter Sarah arrived at the hospital, they were told that they could not see me until I had been examined by the attending physician. They were then led into a waiting room.
The physician came in and began poking me everywhere. “Does this hurt?” “No.” “Does that hurt?” “No.” “Does this hurt?” “No.” He then examined the x-rays and went to where Mary was waiting.
“Well” the doctor said, “He should be either really hurt. Or he…should…be…” without finishing the sentence. “But he’s not. We can’t see anything wrong. So…we’ll give him some heavy muscle relaxants, and you can take him home.”
I taught my class the following Monday… doing what I love most. Now what happened?
The driver who did not see me in the setting sun was driving about 20 mph. The doctor said that I would have been seriously hurt if she had been driving a bit faster. I am a jogger (albeit a very slow one), so I am moderately in shape. And I never saw her coming, so my body was relaxed.
But more than any of this, as I lay on the parking lot, my self-talk was, “I don’t have time for this! I’ve gotta teach tomorrow!” My brain’s strongest picture was not in a hospital bed, but standing in front of a classroom teaching what I am teaching you now.
There is indeed, always a next time.
Steven Campbell is the author of "Making Your Mind Magnificent" and conducts "The Winners Circle" every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. He can be contacted at 480-5007 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.anintelligentheart.com.