You know how sometimes you’ll make a mistake, and then said mistake gets stuck in your head like a bad commercial, repeating over, and over, and over, proving how totally incapable you are?
Isn’t that just an absolute hoot?
Mm-hmm. Not so much, eh? I don’t think so either.
Mistakes stand out in our minds. We remember them — well — and for good reason. If we didn’t learn from our mistakes, it would probably be difficult to, you know, stay alive.
And while it’s good for us to remember that time we almost got run over (so we don’t step into oncoming traffic again), it’s not so good for us to constantly ruminate over the time we said something to our boss that made us sound like we didn’t know what we were talking about.
That silly thing we said doesn’t actually matter, but we think it does. More than that, we often insist on making it mean something. We didn’t just say a silly thing; no. We said a silly thing, and our boss must think we’re incompetent, and we’re probably going to get fired any day now, and why did we open our mouth anyway, and we should just resolve to never speak again because nothing good ever comes from talking at work.
I’m kidding; of course. But I know what I’m talking about, because this is the sort of doomed, diving spiral my brain tries to take all the time. If you’re human, I’m guessing you can relate, even if your brain happens to be more gentle than mine, or more cruel. It’s just so easy to tumble down this path from tiny mistake to catastrophe.
Which is why it’s really useful to be absurdly intentional about noting the things you’ve done right — today, this week, or in the past century.
We don’t remember the fact that we successfully drank this morning’s coffee without spilling it on ourselves. We assume that we should just do that with ease, and we take it for granted. We don’t remember the fact that our magnificent spelling abilities flummoxed our third grade teacher. And we give ourselves no credit for the fact that we jog around the park a few times a week (miracle of miracles!) without breaking any bones.
So, yeah, maybe you faltered over your words in that meeting. But think of all the other things you did right, just in the past 24 hours!
You got out of bed. (Who cares whether it was when the alarm went off or after five snoozes. You got up!)
You showered successfully. (High five to you, extraordinarily clean-bodied human!)
You brushed and flossed. (Stop it! You’re blinding me with your pearly whites!)
You made yourself breakfast. (Do you know that there are millions of highly intelligent New Yorkers who don’t know how to do this? You are so far ahead of the curve!)
You got to work. (Without getting in an accident! Without injuring yourself or others! And with your hair looking mighty fine, I’ve gotta say.)
You managed to communicate compassionately with several people who seemed bent on infuriating you by email. (Equanimity is the name of your game!)
You put your kids to bed, and they were totally still alive. (Extra special buckets of bonus points for you, Person Who Not Only Kept Herself Alive All Day, but Also Some Tiny Humans!)
You read a page of a book. (Your genius is taking my breath away, dear reader!)
You ate some chocolate, and enjoyed it. (You’re basically Buddha, as you have cultivated the enormously complex skill of knowing what you want and giving it to yourself without guilt!)
You fell into bed. (The workings of your brain astonish me. Your marvelous brain, that knows when its body is tired and appeases it!)
Do you see what I’m saying? You perform hundreds, probably thousands, of complex, commendable tasks each day. You do so with aplomb. When you tally up all your many miraculous doings against those few miniscule wrongdoings, the wrongdoings finally (finally!) pale in comparison. As they should.
Because — my GOD! Look at all the times you did it right!
. . .
Comments: I’d love to know, my dears, a few of the things you’ve done right today. Or yesterday. Or in the last month.