Learning from the Past: How to Use Past Mistakes to Make Better Decisions in Your Future

Throughout our lives we will make mistakes. Some of us will make more than others, and still others will feel like all they make is one mistake after another. We are human. It is our nature to be imperfect, and as such, we cannot be flawless in our decision-making. What we can do, however, is learn from those mistakes so that we make better decisions in the future.

Before being able to learn from the mistakes in your past, you have to be able to honestly and non-defensively look back and examine instances in your past when you made self-sabotaging and self-esteem-lowering life choices because

1.    Your choices weren’t well thought out;

2.    Your emotions clouded your best judgment; or

3.    There was some other decision-making breakdown or flaw.

Once you acknowledge the mistakes you have made, you can move on to learning valuable life lessons from them. In preparation for a future life-choice opportunity, review and think through what went awry the last time you made a self-defeating or self-destructive life-choice!  Take time to decide on what will be a more constructive or beneficial way to handle a similar choice the next time around. Essentially, you will be creating some inner conversations that acknowledge a flawed life choice was made in the past and identify a more effectively thought out strategy for your future.

To illustrate, let’s consider an example. Suppose you had made a past decision to drive under the influence of alcohol, which resulted in you getting a DUI. The inner dialogue for a better future decision might go something like this:

“The last time I was offered too much alcohol at a party/dinner, I continued drinking because I wanted to be social and it seemed harmless at the time. The lapse in judgment resulted in my getting a DUI and I lost my license. It was awful and devastating in many ways.

Next time, after one drink, I will resolutely say, ‘No thanks!’  I don’t want to risk the unthinkable consequences should I lose my license again, and this time, permanently!  Nor do I want to risk the far worse consequence of injuring my children, myself, or someone else should I get into an accident while driving drunk!”

The key to learning from your mistakes is to acknowledge the mistake in the past and develop a revised and significantly more beneficial game plan to implement in the future. The aim of these steps is to secure a far more desirable result the next time a life choice involving a particular stimulus is presented.

Toxic Emotions: What they are and how they affect you

As the founder of Life Choice Psychology™, I have counseled thousands of individuals over the course of thirty years. I have helped them master the toxic emotions that get in the way of making life choices that lead to goal achievement, fulfillment, and living the life they desire.

But what exactly do I mean by toxic emotions? Like a toxic chemical or poison that would physically affect your health, toxic emotions are those that damage you mentally. They can be very evident in their expression or they can lie buried in the deep recesses of your mind, making you unaware of the damaging affect they are having on you.

Among the toxic emotions that are prevalent and damaging are these:

Rejection
This toxic emotion can impact your confidence and self-esteem. Also, studies have shown that rejection can actually cause physical responses that increase a person’s risk for asthma, depression, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.

Disappointment
Suffering from disappointment can lead some people to wallow in blame or frustration or even become depressed. There is a debated theory called the disappointment affect that links immune system compromise to the experience of disappointment in optimists.

Anger and/or Rage
A person who experiences anger or bouts of rage lives with a nearly constant heightened stress level. The physical damage stress can cause to the human body is well known. From an emotional aspect, anger and rage stands in the way of having healthy, meaningful relationships and can affect a person’s ability to maintain a job and therefore take care of him- or herself.

Betrayal
Whether you have been betrayed or you have betrayed another, the psychological affects can be debilitating. Loss of trust extends beyond the parties involved and can make it more difficult to establish trust with others. Experiencing betrayal causes great distress on both sides, which certainly impacts life choices during that time and, potentially, long after.

Shame
People who have shame erroneously feel that they are bad people. They also tend to avoid social interactions and can become isolated. It is easy to see how this type of perspective and behavior can cause harm in a person’s life.

This list is not exhaustive but will give you a sense of the types of emotions that can be labeled toxic. My 7 Steps to Emotion Mastery system presented in Your Killer Emotions teaches you how to tackle these toxic emotions and make them your allies rather than your enemies.

How to Deal with Rejection

“If you don’t go up to bat, you can’t get a hit,” is a much-cited cliché. A corollary to this reality, is that, if you go up to bat and put yourself on the line, you won’t always get the job; the order; the client; the promotion; and/or the raise. No one always succeeds!

Knowing this, the questions to ask are: So, what happens when you get rejected? How do you deal with rejection? Do you handle it constructively and strategically; or do you let your toxic emotions cloud your best judgment and evaluative processes, and make a self-sabotaging career choice and thereafter act on it to your great detriment?

In my book, Your Killer Emotions:  The 7 Steps to Mastering the Toxic Emotions, Urges, and Impulses That Sabotage You, I discuss The ”7 Steps of Emotion Mastery,” which enable you to make highly beneficial workplace choices – free from sabotaging emotions and feelings, such as rejection. Here are some suggestions to accomplish this:

1. Don’t Make Emotional Decisions

First and foremost: DO NOT make an important decision or choice when you are overcome with feelings of rejection, hurt, embarrassment, disrespect, hopelessness,and the like. Always, stop, cool down, and, as they say, “take the pause that refreshes.” Additionally, DO NOT opt for an immediate, emotional quick fix, such as reacting destructively, lashing out, and/or retaliating.

Oftentimes, we opt for these short-term satisfactions, but in the big picture of our lives and careers, these unthinking, emotion-generated reactions are counter and highly detrimental to accomplishing what we truly want for our careers in the long term (our Gold Ring Dreams).

2. Learn Why You Were Rejected

Experiencing rejection is often the first step to attaining great success! The key to enjoying post-rejection success, is to openly, honestly, and toxic emotion-free, learn why you were rejected or didn’t attain your goal. Securing this feedback, is essential for you to adjust your mindset; fix your missteps; and enable you to develop a new, more appropriate, and effective game plan and set of behaviors. I cannot count how many times my clients didn’t get a position; learned from the process; and improved themselves.

At some point thereafter, they interviewed for a (better) position, with their new and improved arsenal of skills; nailed the interview, and secured a wonderful new position. As a result, the initial rejection – when viewed constructively – turned out to be an excellent learning experience; and a wonderful gift and blessing.

The P.E.P. Talk

This article is part of our P.E.P. Talk Series. Over the next month, some of the brightest and best authors, business professionals, and coaches are coming together to share their valuable advice for breaking free of “The Golden Handcuff Effect” so you can take full ownership of your careers and experience Professional Emancipation.

Ken Lindner is the author of Your Killer Emotions: The 7 Steps to Mastering the Toxic Emotions, Urges, and Impulses that Sabotage You, which can be purchased from www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

(Originally appeared on Careerealism.com, March 2013)

Pent-Up Anger and Rage: Some Constructive Solutions

This morning I heard a horrifying story. Allegedly, in stop-and-go traffic, a driver, “A,” stopped quickly, and driver,“B,” behind him slammed on his brakes a bit too late. Allegedly, B’s car hit A’s, and damaged his back bumper. No one was hurt. Allegedly, driver A, like a keg of dynamite that had just been lit, exploded! He stormed out of his car, grabbed a thick metal pipe from his trunk, and raced with a full head of steam to B’s car, yelling every obscenity in the book, as he began smashing B’s car side window, in order to break through the glass (which he did) to injure/kill Driver B. Allegedly, Driver A was taken into custody by the police shortly thereafter.

Over the past 30 years, I have counseled thousands of individuals to master their toxic emotions. One thing that I have learned during this time, is that: If you let your potentially toxic emotions (rage, hurt, hate, fear, hopelessness, rejection and the like) overtake and hijack you, your best judgment, and your reasoning processes, terrible life choices and irreparable damage may well be the result.

We all experience stress in our lives. The key is not to let your stress or your potentially toxic emotions trigger a destructive or self-sabotaging expression of those emotions. Here are some tips to help you to effectively deal with moments of extreme anger or rage, and/or other strong emotions:

*First and foremost: DO NOT make a decision or act when you are overcome by emotions!  Always, stop, cool down, and, as they say, “take the pause that refreshes.”  Additionally, DO NOT opt for an immediate, emotional quick fix, response, or retaliation. (As driver A did.) Oftentimes, we opt for these short-term satisfactions, but in the big picture of our lives, these unthinking, emotion-generated reactions are counter and highly detrimental to accomplishing what we truly want for ourselves in the long term (our Gold Ring Dreams).

*Never reflexively or unthinkingly act when you are angry or enraged!

*ALWAYS strategically identify what you truly want in and from the choice you’re going to make and any action(s) that you will/may take. This means that you must know what you truly value the very most before you make your choices.  This way, you will make well-thought-out choices that reflect and effect your most treasured values and goals.

*Be “Consequence Cognizant.”  This requires you to carefully think about and vividly visualize:

-The most severe and heinous consequences that a poor/destructive emotionally-charged choice on your part can have on your life, your career, and those you love. In this case, Driver A could go to jail for many years for allegedly committing assault with a deadly weapon. This is a horrible consequence for him and his family, that he should have thought about and/or visualized before he acted; and

-The most positive, beneficial outcome(s) that you will secure because you took the requisite time to strategically choose the most constructive course of action.

*If it is appropriate, try to truly understand where the other individual who is pushing your emotional buttons or evoking a potential toxic emotion-generated response from you is coming from. Strive to see things from their point of view. Chat with the person in issue, in an open and non-defensive manner. Oftentimes, learning where others are coming from brings understanding, as well as sympathy/empathy, which can diffuse and thereby lessen the strong energy charges generated by potentially toxic emotions.

*Another means to diffuse your emotion-generated energy charges, is to take a moment to think about all of the blessings and positives in your life/job/career.  In this case, driver A could have taken time to truly appreciate the fact that he wasn’t injured and that the accident could have been much worse. This can help you to cool down from the angst of the moment, so that you are then better able to think clearly and strategically.

*You should avoid making important or potentially pivotal choices when you are tired, experiencing high levels of stress, or have had too much caffeine. Additionally, you never want to make important choices and/or act when you are under the influence of alcohol or clarity-impairing medicinal or recreational drugs. Your goal is to be cognitively clear and precise when making your choices. Therefore, you want to stay away from anything that can impair your cognitive processes.

Your takeaway here, is that there will be times when you will experience potentially toxic emotions such as extreme anger or rage. I use the word “potentially,” because these emotions are toxic to you, if they trigger destructive and/or self-sabotaging acts on your part. What you want to do in these instances, is to not emotionally react in these situations, but to instead, strategically and constructively choose your actions. Channel the potential negative energies that you experience into positive endeavors – thereby using your emotions and their energy charges as your valuable allies. The sweet result may well be that you will act appropriately and constructively by preserving and/or enhancing the things that you hold most dear, as well as gain (increased) feelings of high self-esteem, self-worth, and the core-confidence to achieve your most cherished goals.

Your Killer Emotions is available on www.amazon.com and www.bn.com!

Tips for Avoiding Poor Decision Making During Stressful Times

A few days before last Christmas, I was in an elevator with a prominent attorney. During our conversation, he mentioned that he is always busiest during Christmas, New Year’s and other times when individuals are under more stress than usual. He warned, “When people are stressed out, they make their absolute worst choices!”

Toxic emotions (e.g. feelings of sadness, hopelessness, alienation, hurt, rejection and the like) and stress can block or dismantle your reasoning processes and the use of your best judgment. It can also amp up the voltage of the energy charges generated by your potentially toxic emotions. Therefore, it is essential for you to do your best not to make important life choices when you are under an emotional barrage or high stress.

In my book, Your Killer Emotions: The 7 Steps to Mastering the Toxic Emotions, Urges, and Impulses That Sabotage You, I discuss The 7 Steps of Emotion Mastery, which enable you to make highly beneficial life choices—free from sabotaging emotions, urges, and impulses.

Here are some holiday suggestions to keep you under “wraps” this season when you are at the company holiday event, family reunion or other hustle-and-bustle:

1. First and foremost: Do not make an important decision or choice when you are overcome by emotions or stress! Always, stop, cool down and “take the pause that refreshes.” Additionally, do not opt for an immediate, emotional quick fix, response, or retaliation. Oftentimes, we opt for these short-term satisfactions, but in the big picture of our lives, these unthinking, emotion-generated reactions are counter and highly detrimental to accomplishing what we truly want for ourselves in the long term (our Gold Ring Dreams).

2. Be “consequence cognizant,” which requires you to think carefully and visualize vividly about the following:

a. The most severe and heinous consequences that a poor/destructive emotionally charged choice can have on your life, career and/or those you love

b. The most positive, beneficial outcome(s) that you will secure because you took the requisite time to choose strategically the constructive course of action

3. If it is appropriate, try to understand the position of the other individual who is pushing your emotional buttons or evoking a potential toxic emotion-generated response. Strive to see this person’s viewpoint. Chat with this person in an open and non-defensive manner. Oftentimes, learning where others are coming from brings understanding as well as sympathy/empathy, which can diffuse and thereby lessen the strong energy charges generated within you by potentially toxic emotions.

4. Another way to diffuse your emotion-generated energy charges is to take a moment to think about all of the blessings in your life. This awareness can help you to cool down from the angst of the moment, so that you are then better able to think clearly and strategically.

5. You should not make important holiday choices when you are tired, experiencing high levels of stress or have had too much caffeine. Additionally, you never want to make important choices when you are under the influence of alcohol or clarity-impairing medicinal or recreational drugs. Your goal is to be cognitively clear and precise when making holiday choices. Therefore, you want to stay away from anything that can impair your cognitive processes.

Your takeaway here is that we all experience high levels of stress and potentially toxic emotions during the holidays. I use the word “potentially” because these emotions are toxic to you and your well-being, if they trigger destructive and/or self-sabotaging acts on your part. In these instances, you want to avoid reacting emotionally in these situations; instead, strategically and constructively choose your actions. Channel the potential negative energies that you experience into positive, life-enhancing endeavors—thereby using your emotions and their energy charges as your valuable allies.

The sweet result may well be that you will make positive, life-enhancing holiday choices, as well as gain (increased) feelings of high self-esteem, self-worth and the core-confidence to achieve your most cherished goals.

By Ken Lindner

(This article originally appeared in Artsphoria, AKH Publications, 2012)