Guess what? I made some mistakes this week. I made some decisions that weren’t the smartest, did some things I probably shouldn’t have, and forgot to do other tasks I probably ought to have taken care of. And I’m sure that you have made mistakes this week too.
A decade ago, before my breakdown, those mistakes would have been a HUGE problem for me. I would have spent days beating myself up for each supposed screw-up. I would have thought things like, Todd, you’re such a moron! How could you have made a mistake like that?
To say the least, thoughts like that—especially when they happen frequently—aren’t exactly good for you. They lower your self-worth, and they rob you of your peace of mind and happiness. Even worse, they can doom you to future failure, because when you think less of yourself, you are much less effective. (Remember, our thoughts heavily influence our reality!) Also, studies show that enough negative thinking can actually cause you to get ill more often. And the really sad thing is, most of us do 100 things right for every one thing we do wrong…but we focus only on that one wrong thing.
If you have read my book, you might remember me talking about negativity and positivity glasses. (There is even a picture of a pair of glasses on the front cover of my book!) It seems to me that many people wear what I call “negativity glasses.” It’s like they have prescriptions covering their eyes that allow them to see only the negative things in their lives; for example, all that they could have done better and all of the things they feel they really messed up and handled poorly.
If you think you’re looking at life through negativity glasses, please try to throw them out and put on positivity glasses instead. Be easier on yourself and focus more on those 100 things you’ve done right. For example, give yourself a mental high-five for answering all of the emails in your inbox. Allow yourself to bask in the compliment your boss just paid you. Really savor the smiles on your family’s faces when eating the gourmet dinner you just cooked for them. These things will help you to realize that you have a lot of good, useful, and valuable things to offer the world.
In my own quest for happiness, I have found it very helpful to remember how I would help the people I love if they had made the mistake I just did. For example, I ask myself, What would I say to my wife if she had made this same mistake? The answer is always simple: I would tell her how much I love her and how great she is, and I’d also help her to feel better about herself by reminding her of her many more past success stories. I definitely wouldn’t want her to feel any more heartache or sadness about it or to miss out on all the blessings life has to offer because she couldn’t let it go.
It’s not always easy, but you must try to extend this same love, kindness, and forgiveness to yourself too. Remember: We are all human, and thus fallible, and so all of us will make mistakes. The fact is, if you focus on the one mistake you make and tell yourself how awful you are while ignoring the thousands of things you do right, you are literally setting your life up so you can’t win and can only be miserable and unhappy. What a shame it is that so many of us live this way in America. Please make 2012 the year you change if you are one of these many.