Whether it’s the argument that you got in with you wife, the way you treated your children, how you may have handled a situation at work, or with a client, there’s no doubt that all of us have faced guilt in our lives. This is natural and, actually, a productive emotion to experience.
I know a lot of you, when I say that guilt is productive, are wondering what exactly I’m talking about but I firmly believe that the range of emotions we experience – even the negative emotions are helpful. Negative (as well as positive emotions) are simply indicators of our lives. They tell us what’s going well, what’s not going well and where we need to focus our attention and energy in order to produce new outcomes.
It’s when we dwell on these emotions or allow them to cripple us from doing the work we know we should be doing that it becomes a problem. And, I see this time and time again with the men within The Order. They make a mistake they regret and, rather than learning from it, they wallow in their own self-pity and completely incapacitate themselves and their ability to move on and improve as a result of their mistake.
Look, I get it. I’ve made mistakes that I haven’t been proud of but dwelling on the past does nothing to enhance your future and there certainly isn’t anything you can do about it other than you those mistakes as fuel to alter the course of your life moving forward.
And, that’s what I want to talk with you about today. I want to talk with you about three very simple steps you can use to overcome the destructive power of unchecked emotions. Let me be clear though, I’m not talking about hiding emotions or just getting over it. I’m talking about using these powerful feelings we all experience to do the work of a man.
See, there seems to be two sides of the fence on this. One side says, “Men don’t express emotions.” The other side says, “Men need to be vulnerable.” I don’t sit fully with either camp. I think there’s a time and place for everything. There’s a time I can and need to be vulnerable and a time, where I need to simply get over it and re-engage in the work that needs to be done.
The first step in using the emotion of guilt to create the foundation for future growth is to recognize that you made a mistake. That’s all it is.
You aren’t special or unique. You aren’t the first one to do something dumb. We all do and we all have. Give yourself the change to express forgiveness for doing something you regret. It’s okay.
Most mistakes we’ve made are not irreversible or life altering. They’re simple missteps on our path of life.
We cannot and should not turn a blind eye to these mistakes either. In order for you to learn something, you have to acknowledge that there is something to be learned and that comes from you recognizing that you aren’t perfect and you did something you know you shouldn’t have.
Do let yourself off the hook or you’ll never grow. But don’t keep yourself on the hook too long. At some point you’re going to have to let go.
The second step is to study and analyze the mistake. This isn’t so that you can dwell on it and relive horrible memories of your past indiscretions. It’s an opportunity for you to take a calculated, objective look at what actually went wrong.
How did you get to this point?
What made you do the thing you did?
How will you overcome responding this way in the future?
What can you do to ensure this won’t happen again?
The last thing you want is to compound mistake after mistake after mistake. Overcoming one mistake is manageable. Overcoming a dozen is infinitely harder. And, if you don’t give yourself the space and margin to think about where you went wrong, it’s likely you’re going to do it inadvertently again.
CORRECT THE BEHAVIOR
And, the third step in overcoming the guilt and remorse you may be experiencing is to correct the behavior. Stop doing the thing you feel bad about doing.
I can’t tell you how often I see guys continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over again. You aren’t trapped. You are not a slave to past choices unless you decide to be. You have more power than you give yourself credit for.
If you keep doing the same dumb things, be prepared for the same dumb result. If you want a different outcome, you are going to have to do something different. This may include you apologizing to someone you may have offended, cutting of ties with people who aren’t good for you, repaying someone for damage and/or loss, and, frankly, eating crow.
A man that learns to forgive himself, analyze past behavior, and has the ability to correct his thoughts and actions moving forward is unstoppable. It’s the ones who trap themselves in the pain and frustration of their horrible choices who cripple themselves and their ability to move forward.
This takes time guys – especially if what you’ve done is more serious – but it can be overcome using this very simple yet effective three-part formula for overcoming the guilt of your choices.
You are not defined but what you did yesterday but what you do today. If you do the same thing over and over again, that is who you are. If you do something once, learn from it, and move on, you are infinitely more powerful.
Remember, acknowledge and forgive yourself of the wrong doing (you’re human), analyze the mistake so you don’t do it again, and correct your behavior moving forward. This is the mark of a mature man. Using past indiscretions as an excuse to self-destruct is anything but.