Motivation Monday: Mistakes

Art school taught me a lot more than art. It taught me perspective, open-mindedness, and constructive criticism. It also taught me to accept my mistakes, to really look at them and not turn away, and how to correct them.

I never expected that the knowledge I gained in art school would be applied so often to my everyday life.  As a graphic designer in corporate American, it was my job to correct mistakes – including my own! Let me share with you my first BIG mistake at my first job out of college. It was a Y2K publication for the city’s utility division. I typeset and designed a brochure at the city’s request, to let everyone know that all of their computer systems would run smoothly on January 1, 2000. What didn’t run so smoothly was my mistake, that wasn’t caught until after thousands of brochures were printed and distributed. I had left the L out of public, not once but a few times. How embarrassing! I know I ran spell check but since pubic is a word, it wasn’t recognized as a mistake.

I was fortunate to eventually work with a team of proofreaders, who could catch mistakes like that before they were even printed. I eventually went on to work for a publisher with editors, who did not hold back to point out every little problem from the improper use of a comma to an extra space after a period. With every red mark that came back to me, I examined my mistakes closely before correcting them.

Since leaving my art career and joining healthcare, I have somewhat become the editor. I work now as an auditor, reviewing provider documentation for errors. Finding mistakes isn’t a bad thing. Imagine if we, everyone, always did everything right. The world would be stagnant and there would be little room for learning and growth.

When I meet with providers to share the results of their audit, I approach it with the same thinking – here is an opportunity to grow. I share with them ways to correct their mistakes and better care for their patients, capture lost revenue, etc.

Not all providers are receptive. Many providers are perfectionists. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I personally want a provider who not only strives to do their best, but cares for me in the same manner. However, many providers have always excelled in life. I imagine they were valedictorians or deemed “Most Likely to Succeed” in their high schools; they probably graduated with high honors from college. It’s just who they are. So, the thought of me… an art school grad turned auditor… sharing with them that their documentation could use improvement, is probably like a black belt being told by a swimmer that their karate uniform isn’t as white as their peers. I have had some providers so upset that they shut me off completely, refusing to change.

So, I guess it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise to me when I recently asked a law firm to correct the spelling of my name on a legal document they had recorded for me, and they told me it was no big deal. No big deal to correct the mistake? No… they meant the misspelling was no big deal. I was floored. Was I being over-sensitive? Was I wrong to ask them to fix this? I started to question myself. Maybe I should just let this go? But the legal document was recorded under a name that wasn’t mine, or rather didn’t match in spelling, and that could cause more problems down the road.

The more I tried to justify who was right, the more I realized that – in general – humans do not like to admit that they could possibly be wrong, or that they have room for improvement. I include myself in this. Despite my education and experiences, and feeling like I do accept responsibility for my mistakes and make an effort to correct them, I am human and I’m not perfect. Everyone has room to grow in character… always.

Not everyone accepts responsibility for their mistakes, though. Not everyone wants to make an effort to do their part. If they did, would it solve a lot of problems? I truly believe it would be worth the effort to try. Take, for instance, the recent situations throughout the United States involving law enforcement and African-Americans. Instead of each party believing (and arguing) that what they have done is right, what if both saw their mistakes and worked to fix those. After all, it is easier to change ourselves than it is to change someone else. Instead of only seeing our perspective, maybe we should consider everyone’s perspective. It really isn’t that difficult to do, but we do have to make a conscious effort to retrain the way we think; to be less self-aware.

Today, I want to encourage you to rethink mistakes. If someone asks you to correct a mistake that you have made, own up to that mistake. Take control of it, analyze it, and correct it. Approach mistakes in a positive manner. Consider what you could have done better, and how you can avoid it in the future. If you find your own mistake, don’t discredit it. We learn from those too.  Change a misspelling, say you’re sorry, or simply agree to disagree and work on solution – these small acts can (and will) motivate many and provoke a wonderful ripple effect.

Looking for Blessings in Everyday Life

This past weekend I was feeling very sorry for myself. Tons of bills were due, my back was hurting a lot, I was depressed (I was diagnosed with clinical depression a few months back), Sadie was acting up, my hubby was working for the 6th day in a row…everything seemed to be hitting me at once. I was cranky and feeling absolutely miserable.

…And then God stepped in and I found thanks in all of it.

He showed me that I really need to give thanks in all circumstances like the Good Book says. Perhaps these circumstances seem trivial to you but they felt overwhelming to me. I was in tears when He showed me that His blessings are in all areas of my life. As I complained silently (and not so silently) He very obviously showed me what I needed to focus on to adjust my attitude.

Thank God I had all those bills! I had the money to pay for the fancy cell phone, the electricity in my comfortable house in a safe neighborhood, the renters insurance on all of our material stuff, and other “necessities” than so many people cannot afford. We even had enough money left over for lots of nutritious food, gasoline for our two working cars, and a little bit left over for our vacation in October. It humbles me that God has blessed us with so much. I was a little embarrassed that I complained about those bills when we obviously had enough to cover them. Sorry Lord…sometimes my humanity gets in the way. Thank you for reminding me to keep my eyes on you.

My back certainly did hurt but God blessed me with wonderful medical care and medicine! Sure it wasn’t fun to have that backache (which still hurts today), but I had medicine I could take for the pain and I could go get excellent medical care from a doctor if I needed it. So many people even in this great country can’t say that…but I can. Thank you, Jesus for taking care of me!

I was depressed. So the chemicals in my brain make me feel depressed, make me have panic attacks, and sometimes life feels like it gets too hard…but it could be so much worse! I am very guilty of letting this overtake me, especially in the last few months. It’s been my go to excuse to not do things I to have to do, or like to do. However bad this depression is, I could have a terrible, debilitating mental illness, or a brain tumor, or a terminal illness instead of treatable depression. My illness is pretty effectively treated by the miracle of antidepressants. What a blessing the Creator of the Universe has bestowed on me! Thank God I am only depressed and have Him (and my family) to lean on when it gets hard!

Sadie was being a little stinker for me while Daddy was gone. Oh she was in fine form but she is mine! I know so many people struggle to conceive a child and she came to us quickly despite my polycycstic ovarian disorder. Somewhere someone would have loved to have the “problem” of a little one kicking the walls, yelling no, and acting like a little crazy person. My sweet three year old is one of the biggest blessings I have ever been given. She is a true miracle and God reminded me of that as I sat at the kitchen table bemoaning my “hardship” of a difficult three year old.

Todd had worked 18 long hours that Friday and was working again early Saturday morning. That put me in a horrible mood because I was alone the day before and again that morning with a difficult child. But God reminded me that so many people are out of work and so working long hours is a blessing. Working ANY hours is a blessing these days. And those long hours will pay for all the other blessings in our life – bills, daycare, and food. A secondfold blessing is that I have a husband who works so hard. My husband is the most honest, hardworking man I know. Thank you God for such a sweet and busy man for a husband and his job.

This whole thing might be a little saccharine to some. I get that. But this isn’t just a “look for the silver lining” reminder. This is a reminder to look for God’s hand and blessing in everything, especially the hard to understand or difficult. God is there and He will show himself in those hard times. Try to focus on the blessing and not the hard parts of your life. God blesses us all, in everything! All we need to do is look and He will show us how.

Hanging Out on the Bottom

We often call the good times in our lives “mountain top” experiences.  Those are the times we can take a deep breath and survey what we had to go through to get to the victory zone.  We can see where we came from, maybe even excuse away poor choices or actions because we have now arrived.  Let’s take a little closer look at how a mountain is shaped though.

The lowest area between mountains is usually considered a valley.  Valleys cover a larger area than a mountaintop.  It is predictable to say that we will spend a greater amount of time in the valleys of our lives.

Usually we equate a valley with difficult times, but in reality it is often a lush area with a water source.  Think about it, when it rains, all the water flows down the sides of the mountain to fertilize the valley.  Think of all the miners who have found precious gems while panning in river waters.  Those same rivers flow through mountain ranges.  That life source pushes through soil, rock, trees, whatever it has too.

If we change our perspective about experiences in the valleys we can live a much more abundant life.  We can thrive in that fertile area, digging our toes into mineral laden soil in the river bed.  This can be a time where we can open our hearts to God for direction.  The last thing any of us needs to do is run towards a mountain to climb it without a plan of action.  Supplies and equipment are needed.  Every mountain is different than the previous one.  Chances are we are not returning to this particular valley either.  Once we get to the top, we will descend into another valley.  A different valley with new flowers, unexplored terrain…breathtaking views.  With a climb and hiking ahead of us, we must learn to pack light.  We are not designed to carry guilt, jealousy, bitterness, or depression on our shoulders.  God has made His backpack to custom fit each of us.

For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good–not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne (Matthew 11:30).
We can easily get comfortable in the valley and get stuck.  Even the best moments have an ending but they are always the beginning of another moment yet to be lived out.