Build On Your Successes, Not Your Mistakes

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Today will be a day of recuperation for me. Through a combination of age, weight, and not taking very good care of this body, I’ve got a condition doctors lovingly refer to as degenerative disc disease, along with a couple of other things I can’t quite pronounce. Combined, it means my lower back is pretty much gone, and it’s not going to get much better. Thankfully, it’s usually not nearly this bad.

With something like this, you resign yourself to the reality that some days will be better than others and try not to overdo it on the good days. Well, okay. That’s what sane people do. When I have a good day, my brain says, “You can beat this! Just get up and stretch it out a little.” And other days it just says, “Have fun, because you’re gonna pay for this one.”

I remember a time when that was my mentality about a lot of things. You’re out for a drink after work and the next thing you know it’s dinnertime. You call home and say, “Just a little longer.” Then it’s getting dark and you call to say, “Let me finish this drink and I’ll be home.” By now she’s fuming, and your inebriated brain says you’re in trouble anyway, so you might as well enjoy it.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all done that from time to time, in various ways. Maybe it’s a day on the job when you’re just not feeling it. Your work is stacking up and there’s no way you’ll get it all done. After a while, your brain starts making excuses. “Take it easy. There’s no way you’ll get all this done, no matter how hard you try. You’re in trouble anyway. Save your energy for tomorrow.”

Okay, we probably don’t do that on the job very often, because if we did, we wouldn’t be on the job for long. But how often do we do that with our own goals? You know there’s something you should be doing (or not doing) and there’s that nagging voice in your head that says you deserve a little fun. “All work and no play …” You know the rest of that one. It’s a song that plays in our minds a lot.

I know the things I need to do to make my back a little better. Exercise would be at the top of the list. Not anything intense – just walking or even a little stretching. Yoga would be great, or even swimming. I know all this. I just don’t do it. On the other hand, I know I have to lose weight. But that cheeseburger last night was just too good to pass up (not to mention the birthday cake later).

And it’s not like I’m doing things blindly, with no concept of the price I’ll pay later. I stood at my desk yesterday for a full five minutes talking myself into a healthy lunch instead of take-out from a local Thai restaurant. I knew the implications of making the wrong decision. And I made the right choice. This time. But how many times do we make the wrong choice, fully aware of the consequences?

We all make mistakes. That only makes us human. But when we allow those mistakes to pile up, simply because “I’ve already messed up anyway,” it’s that much harder to get back on track. And as we see ourselves slipping further from our goals, we begin to justify not even trying. Why bother if, after all that extra effort, you’ll just come up short anyway?

Yesterday we talked about those small steps – seemingly insignificant, but added together they can make a huge difference. It’s the same when we do the things we shouldn’t do. We may get away with it a few times, but after a while it catches up. And that’s when we find ourselves in a hole with nothing but a shovel to dig our way out.

I didn’t do anything intentional to mess up my back. But I did do a few things that I probably could have put off once I knew things were headed in the wrong direction. Just like I’ve done a few things I didn’t need to do instead of working on the things I should be doing for my personal goals. We all do it. And we all pay a certain price. The question we have to ask is whether that price is worth it.

Sure, we can always turn things around and get back on track. But it’s easier to keep a train moving than to get a train moving. We’ll slip up now and then, and that’s okay. What’s important is that we correct our mistakes instead of letting them become an excuse for making even more mistakes. Every step we take leads us in a certain direction. Make sure it’s the direction you want to go.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Mistakes Are Never Intentional – Reactions Are

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

This was a good weekend for me. I got most of the things done that I’d planned, and still found some time to rest. It began Friday night as I sent my motorcycle into the sunset with a new owner and ended last night when my granddaughter came to spend a week with us. Life is good.

Selling my motorcycle was a bittersweet sorrow, and also a relief. I’d ridden one in high school, and all through my young adult years I wanted another one. My wife always knew spring was in the air, because I’d start nosing through magazines and sale ads, and browsing through the bike shops with that longing look in my eyes. But it just wasn’t to be, at least not then.

Finally, after the kids were grown and we were in a somewhat better financial position (you know, compared to unemployment), I took the plunge. For nine years, I enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair and spent many weekend days motoring lazily along winding country roads. It was fun. It was relaxing. It was therapeutic.

But change is part of life, and sometimes we have to accept a few changes that we’d rather do without. In my case, it was twofold – my lower back degraded to the point that sitting upright without being able to change positions made it too uncomfortable to enjoy the ride. And also, I began to worry about sharing the road with drivers in much heavier cars who text while they drive.

I had a few close calls over the years, but the last one was enough to make me hang up my helmet. At 55 mph, a driver in an SUV that had been stopped in a turn lane suddenly turned in front of me. I didn’t even have time to hit the horn. I locked up the brakes and waited for the impact. She saw me at the last second and stopped. If she hadn’t, I would have been on the evening news.

I’m sure that woman went home shaking as hard as I did. And I doubt she’s made that mistake since then. It’s not that she intentionally tried to mess up my day. We just tend to get into our own world sometimes to the point that we miss what’s going on all around us. And, depending on what we’re doing at the time, the result can be disastrous.

I could have gotten upset and offered an obscene gesture. But the fact is, I was just happy to be alive. And also, I’ve been that person in the other vehicle, not paying close enough attention, who made somebody else’s heart skip a few beats. It happens to all of us. Laying on the horn or yelling obscenities doesn’t make the other person feel any worse. It just increases the anger on both sides.

People make mistakes. Accidents happen. We hurt other people without meaning to, both physically and emotionally. And other people will hurt us. That’s life. That’s all part of living and breathing in a world where others also live and breathe. And, more importantly, a world where others have no less entitlement to live and breathe than we do.

What’s important is that we come away from those situations wiser and with a stronger sense of how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. But when learning is replaced by a battle of who can get in the last word, who can offer the worst insult, or who can throw the last punch, nobody wins. It’s that mentality that leads to bullets replacing words.

Life is full of challenges, and sometimes we have to take a knock on the chin. It’s been said that discretion is the better part of valor. And discretion is simply using our brain to decode a situation, to determine if it’s an immediate danger that requires defensive action on our part, or if it’s simply an oversight on somebody else’s part that we could just as easily have committed.

Most of us will go through life without ever facing a situation in which our immediate survival depends on our ability to outdo another person. There will be times when we need to take immediate defensive action, but defense ends when the immediate danger is over. Anything beyond that is aggression.

We all make mistakes and, when we do, we expect others to recognize that the act was unintentional. When we offer an apology, we expect others to accept it. We can’t undo anything once it’s done, and no amount of post-conflict aggression will change that. Winning doesn’t mean we have to be stronger and better than everyone else. Sometimes, it simply means getting through life with them.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved