Remember to Forget: When to Have a Short vs Long Memory
Dean Smith, the UNC men’s basketball coach for 36 years, once said, “What to do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.” Far too often people forget to forget; mistakes happen and failures happen on a regular basis if you are consistently pushing towards your goals. If you spend too much time dwelling on those failures instead of the lessons learned, you can easily find yourself paralyzed by fear of failure in the future. Never admitting your role in the mistake to begin with is equally detrimental. You can’t learn from a mistake if you refuse to admit that you made it in the first place!
The lessons learned from failures, along with the successes and triumphs, should be the things that you focus your attention and energy on. Put these moments in the back of your mind and remind yourself of them frequently. Writing things down in a place you pass through often can help with this. Praise yourself for the things you have done well, and give yourself credit when you pushed towards your goals, fell short, but learned how to better approach that situation the next time around. Be grateful for life’s challenges because without them growth would be impossible!
Dwelling on a mistake or failure is only productive when it allows you to change course and attack things from a different angle. For this reason, have a short memory with regards to your mistakes. Some of the most successful people of our time only got that way by consistently throwing themselves at the same problem repeatedly; eventually they managed to find the right angle to make forward progress, but not without countless metaphorical broken bones. These individuals persevered because they quickly forgot the pain of falling short and instead chose to push forward anyways. Their goals were more important than the fear of failure or fear of embarrassment.
Remember why you are pursuing your goals. Remember why that thing you want so badly lit a fire inside you in the first place. Remember what excites you when you wake up and keeps you awake at night when you are trying to fall asleep. Make sure you also remember to forget: to forget the mistakes, to forget the shortcomings, to forget the failures, to forget the embarrassment and the fear. Persevere anyways, because the path to success is never straight and narrow!
Until next time.