While we all like to feel justified in our actions and our decisions, honestly analyzing our choices is the only way to learn from them.
In making decisions and taking actions, our emotions lead. We first want something, and then we carefully convince ourselves that we need it.
We look for all sorts of reasons to justify our wants and we sometimes succeed in ranking that new car or larger t.v. or whatever the ads make us drool for right along with food and shelter. We all want to be right and respected, and that’s where rationalization comes in.
In the movie, “The Big Chill,” Jeff Goldblum’s character says rationalization is our most highly developed human skill, even more important than sex. “Think about it,” he says. “Have you ever gone a whole day without a rationalization?”
When we’re busy defending and rationalizing our actions and thoughts, we miss a learning opportunity. We need to study them scrupulously in the light of honesty to understand what drives us.
What were our motives really? It often takes digging deeper than the first “why” to get to the real motive.
Did I volunteer for that charitable event because I’m passionate about the cause? Did I do it to help others? Or did I think it would be a good networking opportunity? Or because it’s a way to feel better about myself?
Is it all of the above?
None of these reasons are bad. But being honest with ourselves is a prerequisite to being honest with others. And forgiving ourselves for being less than perfect is part of the learning process.
The most challenging situations may be when we’ve been wrong.
Let’s say we rear-end the car in front of us. Are we likely to blame the other driver for stopping short or for stopping at a yellow light? Or are we going to admit we were following too closely and driving faster than a safe speed. One of the best sales executives I knew had a sign that read, “The man who can smile when everything is going wrong has already found someone to blame.”
If we can believe we are the wronged party and the victims of someone else’s poor decisions, we find it easier to accept the outcome. It’s much harder to own the fact that we screwed up even though it’s the nature of being human to make mistakes. And most of us have learned our greatest lessons from our missteps, not from the easy wins or the times when everything seemed to fall into place without effort.
Seek the lesson rather than pointing the blame. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes. We all make them. It might help to realize that making mistakes is mandatory for humans. It’s learning from them that’s optional.
Read the other articles in this series:
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger