A guide to messing up

If you are like me you mess up a lot. Part of the problem for me is that too often I don’t always have a good sense of where or how I mess up. You get used to doing things the same way. It becomes “normal” and all other things being equal we tend to do what is “normal.” Messups acquire a life of their own. They become what we do without even thinking about it. They become part of us. At their worst we come to believe they are us.

What follows below comes in part from my effort to become a “more sighted” person. It stems from a hope that if I see better I will do better. You will have to decide if it is even a little bit of a help for you.

The guide described below is a progression through a series of questions. I don’t think any of these questions are particularly original to me. I have used different versions of these questions in the past.

I am not saying to reason or make decisions by a checklist. If you can do that you have skills I don’t have. My hope though is not in any specific decision but to get better at deciding and perhaps these questions might help there.

1. What….

What is going on?

What are the facts?

(How often do you jump into a situation without even knowing what is going on. How often is your “knowledge” fragmentary at best or distorted at worse? How often are your immediate reactions more a reflection of who you are rather than a reflection of what is really going on? At times, depending on the issue or circumstances, all of these things are major problems for me.)

2. So what…..

What is the problem?

What kind of damage has been  done to who?

(What is the problem with what is going on? What are the impacts? Who or what is damaged and how? Do you misidentify the problem? Do you make it bigger than it is, make it more long lasting than it is, or make almost all problems about you even when they are not? Or on the other hand do you minimize or downplay things because conflict or issues make more of problem than you want to deal with? Virtually everyone I know has a problem of some degree or other with this.)

What is likely to happen? Where is the situation going? What is the most reasonable expectation to base your behavior on?

(How often do your expectations just miss the boat? How often do you just not see things coming? How insightful are you not?)

What resources,  abilities,  or support do I have?

(How often do you decide to do something you just can’t do? You lack the skills, the resources or tools, the support and motivation to make it happen. How often does your sense of want to do not match the reality of can do? On the other hand how often do you back away from something you can do because you assume you can’t?)

What are my priorities?   How much attention and energy can I give this?

(Does my use of time and energy reflect what is important and essential to me? Do I make wise choices about what I can do, what I want to do and what I need to do?)

3. Now what…..

What do I want to do?

What is the plan?

(Do you know what you want to do and does your plan give you a realistic chance of success? How often does your behavior not reflect what you would like to see happen? How often do you not make a plan at all and just blindly act out?)

4. Now….

Take action.   Carry through and implement plan.

(How often does your behavior not reflect what you plan to do? How often do you simply not carry through with things you planned to do?)

4. What now….

How is it working?

What do I need to keep doing?

What do I need to change?

(How often do you just keep doing the same thing whether or not it is working? How often do you even pay attention to whether or not something is working out? Do you learn from experience or just keep on doing the same old things?)

In some ways this post is a glossary of human frailties. It certainly describes a lot of mine. In some ways most of us limit ourselves in ways we don’t have to. It does not by any stretch of the imagination mean this is all we are about. Sometimes life is extraordinarily hard but sometimes we are extraordinarily hard. I hope in these questions you see an inkling of some ways you can be kinder to yourself.

We are all distressingly human at the most inconvenient times.


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