Lesson 7: The Power of Intention
Mistakes are opportunities to learn
“A man's errors are his portals of discovery.”
We are now at the final lesson for the Seven Powers for Self Control. We have learned about the Power of Perception, the Power of Unity, the Power of Attention, the Power of Free Will, the Power of Love, and the Power of Acceptance and now we will focus on the Power of Intention. This power is about looking at mistakes and seeing them as just that…a mistake, a learning opportunity.
Let’s take a moment and talk about ‘mistakes.’ We all make them. We all would rather not, but as human beings we will ALL of us make them. The question becomes, “Why did we make them?” To really discover the answer to this question, we have to take a look at our motivation or our intent. If we hurt someone’s feelings, did we intend to hurt their feelings? If we damaged something, did we intend to damage it? I’m afraid we all know people who have bad intentions behind their actions. They really don’t care who they hurt as long as they get what they want. Then there are the people who deliberately set out to hurt. Their intention is to hurt someone or a group of someones. They want to inflict damage.
Thankfully, most of us don’t fit into this category. When we make a mistake, it is an error. It was never our intention to hurt or inflict pain of any kind. It is these experiences that present us with the opportunity to grow and learn. Think about the mistakes you’ve made in your life. These were probably experiences that helped to shape who you are today. You learned lessons from them or you wouldn’t still remember them. Perhaps the lessons were good ones, maybe they were not so good, maybe even painful. The point is, there was a lesson you learned from the mistake.
“Mistake is the global term I am using to define conflict situations. When we make “poor” choices, we create conflicts for ourselves and others…If we are honest with ourselves, we know that in order to act better and change our ways, we must feel good about ourselves. When we feel poorly, we tend to act poorly,” Becky Bailey tells us in her book Conscious Discipline. “It is not human nature to feel bad about mistakes and good about accomplishments. We learn this mind set.”
We need to look at the opportunity presented to us when we make a mistake. When you make a mistake do you see a moment to be responsible or do you see an opportunity to blame. It is a choice, you know. I’ve worked with children (and adults) for a long time. What’s the first thing that happens when there is a conflict or a mistake? Immediately, there is finger pointing. “She made me do it!” Really? To every mistake made, there was a decision made. You chose that course of action. Sometimes you thought far enough ahead to see the consequences and decided the outcome was acceptable to you. Sometimes you acted before you thought, requiring you to reflect on your choice and its consequences later. Either way, you made a decision to act. Either way there are consequences for that choice.
If we love and accept ourselves, then we are ready, willing, and able to step up and take responsibility for our actions. We understand the mistake that was made and we know that we will learn from it. But more than that, we will love ourselves in spite of our actions. We understand that our intention was honorable. That we meant good, it just didn’t turn out that way. We accept responsibility and we attempt to make amends. The lesson gets learned.
“What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning - and some of them many times over - what do you find? That you can swim? Well - life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!”
Mr. Adler is correct. Mistakes are how we learn. It was always posted in my classroom, “Welearn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.” This is true, when our intention behind the mistake was good and genuine.
This completes our study of the Seven Powers for Self Control. It is something we spend our entire lives trying to accomplish. It is not something that we will do in one day, or one week, or even one year. It is a process we will spend our lives working to achieve. Hopefully, when that last day comes, we’ll look back and see that we learned our lessons to the best of our ability.