- Thoughts for inspired living

November 7, 2008

Guilty Pleasure

Filed under: John Morgan's Blog — John Morgan @ 9:49 am

“Never make the same mistake twice” is about as motivating as “I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

Everyone makes the same mistake thousands of times. They are the byproduct of unproductive patterns that we all own. A more effective piece of advice would be to notice your mistake while you are making it. It doesn’t guarantee that you will not make it again, but it increases the odds that you’ll update and outgrow the pattern.

Beating yourself up about your mistakes is the poorest strategy for outgrowing them. The “no feet” comment is a guilt inducer. If guilt was a motivator of change, Catholic and Jewish girls would be the most guiltless people on the planet. What is never played out in the “no feet” comment is what happens five minutes later. The person with no shoes goes back to feeling sorry for themselves.

Regarding mistakes, acknowledge them, apologize for them, pay the associated penalty and then get on with the business of outgrowing them. It begins with recognition. If you are unaware you are missing the mark, you will continue to miss with the same frequency.

Outgrowing something is noticing there is something to outgrow. The effort that’s necessary is to train yourself to notice unproductive behavior while it’s happening. Reminds me of a story I tell at my seminars . . .

Pretend a friend has asked you to watch their 6 year old after school and feed them dinner. When you arrive at her house, she instructs you that the child is not to have any cookies before dinner. So you being the diligent caretaker, count the cookies in the cookie jar in the kitchen. There are nine. The child comes home from school and you announce the “no cookies before dinner” policy. The child nods and then goes off to another room and begins to watch TV. You go about doing some of the things you brought with you to work on, like balancing your checkbook at the dining room table. Now it’s dinner time and you fix a meal for you and the 6 year old. You notice that the child just picks at the meal and hardly eats anything. They say they are just not hungry. They scoot off back to the TV room and you begin to clean up the kitchen.

But something tells you to check the cookie jar. You notice that there are now five. You immediately deduce that they didn’t have them after dinner because you’ve been cleaning up in that room since dinner ended and would have seen that happen. It dawns on you that while you were working on your checkbook, they snuck into the kitchen and took the cookies. How effective would it be to go into the TV room and berate them for eating the cookies? Not very. The behavior is over with. What would have happened if, out of the corner of your eye, you spotted them pilfering cookies before dinner and shouted out “Hey”? You would have interrupted the behavior in midstream and had a different outcome.

How helpful is it to beat yourself up after eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Pumpkin Cheesecake”?

Begin to compare the effectiveness of the two competing methods offered to outgrown patterns – Guilt and Recognition.

I would feel guilty if I didn’t get you to recognize which one works better.

All the best,


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