If you feel like you’ve done something wrong, then your natural reaction will be to want to punish ourselves.
Maybe you put out some work that was below standard, and you’re still beating yourself up over it.
Or you spent too much money one month, and now you are punishing yourself for it.
Or you made a bad judgment call, and you feel the urge to punish yourself.
A lot of us seem to believe (unconsciously) that things will get better if only we’re hard enough on ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but it hasn’t worked all that well for me. Is it working for you?
I remember the moment I realized that I was using my creativity to come up with things I’d done wrong so I could punish myself. It’s a crazy addiction. I was walking down the corridor of the Mariott Marquis hotel in San Francisco, on my way to my room, during the Wisdom 2.0 conference of 2014.
I suddenly just saw it. Saw how incredibly counterproductive and meaningless it is to waste my perfectly good and powerful creative faculties on coming up with fictitious crimes committed by myself, so I could punish myself.
What a waste.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Instead choose to see nothing that you’ve ever done or will ever do as “wrong”. Sure, there may be things that you’d like to not repeat. To do differently. Make another choice the next time. But abstain from labeling it as wrong. Why not just decide that it was right.
One of my favorite stories, and I’m going to totally mutilate it right now, is the story of the old Chinese man who’s given a horse. His neighbors say “oh, you’re so lucky”. He shrugs and says “maybe”.
Then his son breaks his leg riding the horse and the neighbors say “oh, poor you”. The old man shrugs and says “maybe”.
Later on there’s a war and all young men are drafted. But because he broke his leg, the son gets to stay home. The old man’s neighbors say “oh, you’re so lucky”. The old man shrugs and says “maybe”.
It may go on like that for a while. I don’t remember. This is all I know of the story.
The point is: You can never know if something’s truly good or bad, so why not just defer judgment, or pretend it’s good, since we’ll feel better that way. And when we feel better, we do better.
So next time you feel compelled to label something wrong and punish yourself for it, stop, and think of this story, and just choose not to.
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