When clients mis-take mistakes
So many clients get thrown into a spin by their mistakes (don’t we all!). A potent form of spiritual direction is to help clients see that they habitually make a mistake when they consider their mistakes.
Holly was scheduled to give a PowerPoint presentation at an event. She was a veteran of PowerPoint and had run into many struggles in her many presentations. She carefully devised a Plan A and Plan B so nothing would go amiss. She was running a bit behind the morning of this presentation, and, as it played out, her fears were confirmed: In fact, she could not get Plan A or Plan B to work! She could not find her PowerPoint file on her flash drive (Plan A), and then could not open it from her email site (Plan B). She went a bit reptilian in her efforts to raise the presentation from the dead, and never did succeed. So, 10 minutes late, she changed plans and led the presentation from the PowerPoint handout. It went fine, but in the midst of my search and rescue efforts she was quietly but frantically spinning, embarrassed, and mad.
In the wake of this PowerPoint fiasco, she came to our session stewing: I need to fly less by the seat of my pants and show up earlier! I should have given up on the PowerPoint much earlier and just used the handouts! This is just a brief sampling of the nasty and self-incriminating thoughts that spewed from her. And, the more she talked the more tired she become: I stopped Holly and said: “Here’s what I’m seeing—the more you ruminate on your mistakes the more your life-force is being sucked out of you.” Yes, mistakes can be a great Spirit killer. They serve up healthy portions of shame and blame; they inject us with strong doses of fretfulness and self-abuse. Stewing has nothing to give, it only takes.
As she was falling asleep on the night of her PowerPoint debacle, Holly was struck with the answer to what had gone wrong: The older version of PowerPoint in the computer she was using was not able to read the files from her new PowerPoint version.
In a hundred different ways, I seek to impress upon clients that there is no such thing as a mistake; there are only lessons. When we are under the spell of our mistakes, our mind constricts. It’s as if the worst teacher from our grade-school days was trying to force a lesson on us we didn’t want to learn. When we shift the event from mistake to lesson, our mind expands and our fretting diminishes (there is brain research to back this up). We open up to possibility. We become a learner rather than a failure.
So, when clients bring up their mistakes, help them shift into a learner’s mind, and their hearts will transform their mistakes it into valuable lessons.