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Why We Keep Making The Same Mistakes Over And Over Again

Many people confess quite readily that they’ve made mistakes in their lifetime, usually the small inconsequential ones that are easily forgiven and forgotten, but sometimes the big significant ones that are more difficult to deal with and get over.

Some people will even admit to having committed monumental mistakes, so dramatic in fact that they were life changing. That great job opportunity in a foreign country they couldn’t refuse perhaps turned into a bureaucratic nightmare. That fabulous business opportunity they couldn’t pass up turned into personal bankruptcy. That irresistible person they simply had to win over turned into the partner from hell. We’ve all had experiences of failure to a greater or lesser degree, in some way or other, at some point or other.

There are also individuals who will recognize a particular kind of phenomenon, namely that they make essentially the same mistakes over and over again. If not the exact same mistakes, their miscues are similar enough to fit into an identifiable category. Why does that happen? What is it about these individuals that cause them to repeat their errors?

Depending on your beliefs, you can view mistakes as failures – the kind of experiences that should not be repeated. Or, you can view them as chances to try again in a different manner – the kinds of experiences that offer you opportunities for learning. The prior people may fail at an endeavour the first time they engage in it, and from that outcome decide not to try it ever again. The latter people may fail repeatedly at an endeavour and, regardless the outcome, they simply keep on trying again and again. It seems that part of the secret to success is to learn something about yourself and your endeavor each time you fail, knowing that in all likelihood you will get closer and closer to success with each succeeding attempt.

Let’s take the movie industry as an example. A scene is staged for filming, the actors are on the set and ready to portray their roles, the director is behind the scenes giving instructions and directing the shoot. A stagehand says, “Take 1.” The director exclaims, “Action.” The actors act out their scene, the cinematographer rolls the cameras and captures the action. The director says, “Cut.”

Is that it? Is the scene over? Does everyone move on to the next set? Rarely does it happen that quickly and painlessly. Anyone who has been on a movie set, or who has seen an account of what happens on a movie set, knows that there are almost always multiple takes of any one scene. It may even happen that the director insists on shooting more than a dozen takes of one scene, sometimes making adjustments to the action, to the way the actors deliver their lines, to the camera angles, to the lighting, to the sound booms, etc.

Let’s presume that one scene has been shot 12 times. In other words, there are 12 takes to that scene. The 12th shoot is the one the director likes and that he will keep for the final edit to the movie. The 12th take is the right one. What happens to shoots 1 to 11? Are they discarded? Sometimes they are; most often they are kept in archives. Can we say that, given the 12th take it the right one, shoots 1 to 11 were missed takes, i.e. “mis-takes”?

If we really pay attention to the overall process, we will understand that the “mis-takes” 1 to 11 were integral to the process that produced the eventual 12th take. All the adjustments made in shoots 1 to 11 served to build the final shoot that resulted in the right take. Another way of describing that process is to say that the people involved learned from all the “errors” and “miscues” in the first 11 shoots, and all that learning led them to film the eventual 12th take that turned out to be the right one.

The actors perhaps kept making the same mistakes over and over again, or perhaps the mistakes were slightly different each time yet similar enough to be identified in a common grouping. Regardless, the point remains that the end result was achieved. What an audience gets to see in a movie theatre is the best of the best that was shot amidst a whole spectrum of mis-takes that did not make the final cut.

In the analogy offered to us by the movie industry, art imitates life. But, when we really think about it, this art form called the film industry offers us a very pertinent metaphor for life. We berate ourselves much too often for a mistake that didn’t give us the result we wanted, and walk away from the endeavor because we’ve made the assessment that we’re not good enough to pursue the task, or do not have the wherewithal to put in all the hard work involved, or somehow do not merit the success for which we strive. Is this the mindset of Leonardo Di Caprio on Pin Ita film set? Or Dame Judi Dench? Or Meryl Streep? Or any of the actors that have played James Bond? If it was, we would never get to enjoy a movie in a theatre because it involves too many mistakes!

Things happen in our life, whether intentionally or by accident, that offer us the opportunity to learn important lessons about how to get what we really want. When we don’t learn enough on our first try (take 1), we can direct ourselves to try again (take 2), and to do so as often as necessary to eventually learn everything there is to learn to get us exactly what we want (the 12th take – the right take). In fact, life can bring us back time and again to the same experience, sometimes more dramatically on each occurrence, until we learn how to engage in our role sufficiently well to say, “Cut! That’s a wrap.”

Table Of Contents

Katherine Hurst
By Joseph Civitella
Joseph Civitella, PhD, began his studies in Psychology, and after working with various corporations in training and development capacities, he has focused his recent studies and writings on Metaphysics - the quest for truth, meaning and purpose. Joseph continues his work in the fascinating areas of personal growth and professional development in which he is passionate about.

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