Monday, September 18, 2006

Learning from Mistakes

The U.S. invasion "was the right thing to do, and if we had to do it again, we would do exactly the same thing," he said.
Vice-President Dick Cheney
Meet The Press, September 10, 2006

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Benjamin Franklin

The Bush administration and its supporters are making the rounds of talk shows, opinion editorials (op-eds), and press conferences, trying to make their case for the war in Iraq. The message is simple, if a bit misguided. In a nutshell, the argument is this – they were right to take us to war with Iraq, only they can keep the country safe, and given the chance, knowing what we know now, they would not do a single thing differently.

Are you kidding me? Are these people seeing the same situation in Iraq that the rest of the world sees? And if they are, how can they say they would do the exact same thing again? What is it about some people, that they refuse to learn from their mistakes?

I have moved from shock and incredulousness – they said what?! – to a place of introspection. Obviously, they are not learning anything from their mistakes, but that doesn't mean there still can't be a lesson here.

What is it about all of us, that we struggle to make meaningful changes in our lives? Why do we continue to make the same mistakes?

I have a friend who, time and again, involves herself with a man who makes her unhappy. Each time, she follows her heart and stays in a relationship that is unhealthy for her. I hate that she is so miserable, but I struggle with offering any real advice. Mostly, I can just listen and offer her encouragement and my support. But why doesn't she just walk away from a toxic person and – for once in her life - not run right into the arms of another one?

And what about me? Can I honestly say that I am at a point in my life where I am learning from my mistakes?

One area where I am making better decisions is in my professional life. Before, when frustrated or unhappy with a job, I have just walked away. I have created enough justification in my mind to leave… and I have.

Now, though, I am taking a step back and looking at the situation objectively. I am evaluating what is really happening at work - what is making me unhappy? what do I enjoy about what I am doing? - and making the best of it. If I can change my own behavior, and it makes a difference to my attitude at work, then I need to do it. After I change everything that is within my power, and things are still not as I would like them, then I will look to make a bigger change.

I have learned from my mistakes in my personal life, too. I have learned that not everything I do needs to be a three-ring circus. Yes, I do enjoy organizing things and inviting all of my friends. But sometimes, I need to shut out the rest of the world and focus on my relationship with my husband. And other times, I need to shut down even more and focus just on myself. Personal time is a chance to recharge, and everyone needs it. I am mature enough now to realize that, and I make sure I get it.

So, since I am only human, I will continue to make mistakes. I will also continue to learn from them. That’s about all I can ask of myself.