Have you ever said or done something without thinking and then regretted it? Maybe it was an emotional outburst. Or perhaps you did something mean when that’s out of character for you.
If so, you're human. None of us is perfect.
That’s why it’s so important to accept when we aren’t, forgive ourselves and then get right back on track to being the best version of ourselves that we aim to be. Especially when this bad behavior wasn’t intentional.
It starts with having the self-awareness to recognize what has happened, then showing the strength of character to admit you were wrong and set things right. (Spoiler alert: the second part is harder than the first!)
It takes practice, but the upside is that you will have taken the first steps for turning something bad into something good.
Recently, I had one of those opportunities to “practice” when I caught myself behaving badly.
My bad behavior
At the end of another great CrossFit workout, the ten of us were sitting in a circle, ready for the cool down stretches. But our trainer, Lucas, kept talking to one member – let’s call her Janet – about how to master those tricky “knees to elbows” moves from the workout.
I could feel my muscles tightening and feared my lower back would seize up.
Didn’t Lucas know that we were sitting still in a frosty gym with our sweaty workout clothes making it feel colder by the second?
When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I blurted out, “Hey Lucas, can we get going with the warm down already?”
When winning isn’t really winning
He and Janet turned to look at me. Then Lucas said, “Okay let’s stretch”.
Victory at last.
But as we started stretching, the whole gym went quiet. No one thanked me for getting us moving again. In fact, the others didn’t even want to look at me.
In retrospect, they were probably stunned.
I’m usually the one who brings positive energy, not the one who sucks the oxygen out of the room. As Suzy Welch says, there are two kinds of people – energy givers and energy takers – and I’m known for being the former.
I didn’t realize how awful it would feel to get what I wanted.
That’s when I knew what I had to do.
Before we started the next stretch, I said, “Lucas and Janet, I want to apologize for my behavior. I put my needs ahead of those of the group and I won’t do that again.”
Lucas smiled and said, “No worries. It’s in the past.” Another member joked, “May was naughty!” And my gym buddy Joe smiled at me and remarked, “Interesting. Self-correcting behavior.”
That’s when I realized how important it was that I had said something. That I had apologized.
Everyone in the class had seen my outburst and selfish behavior. Maybe some of them were even grateful? Who knows. But that’s not the point.
You always have a choice
In this case, I could have done any number of things – started stretching on my own, waited patiently like everyone else, or learned from what Lucas was saying to Janet, to name a few.
As holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl points out in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, we always have the freedom to choose how we respond to the situation we find ourselves in.
Initially, I had chosen a lesser response. Thankfully, self-awareness kicked in so I could create a second chance to choose well.
Self-awareness is key
The key is to have the presence of mind to be aware of what you’re doing.
In that moment, I was exhausted from a tough work out that I struggled with. Rather than being a bad person, I’d like to think my brain didn't have enough oxygen running through it to think straight!
When you inevitably make a mistake or do something that you’re not so proud of, the key is to then set things straight and apologize sincerely once you’ve recognized it.
Use your community as a training ground for being the best you can be
This is one of the many reasons I love my CrossFit gym. It’s a source of so many life lessons on how to behave with others, how to be part of a community, how to cheer others on, how to allow others to cheer you on.
As my mother says, it’s a “little society”. And that gives us the chance to practice and become better people.
It doesn’t have to be your gym. It could be your family, your work place, the writers group you belong to – all of these are little societies. Use them all as a training ground for helping to become the best person you can be.
And coming back to the point about being human, the great thing is that while we’re not destined to be perfect, we are capable of learning, growing and improving. And a part of this is making the choice to engage in self-correcting behavior and show your true character.
So how about you?
When have you exhibited self-correcting behavior to turn something negative into a positive?
Leave a comment – I’d love to know.