Why Screw Ups Make The Best Memories

Flagler Beach

A quiet beach vacation is nice, but fades from memory. It’s the mishaps we retain longer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There isn’t a lot I remember about my wedding 13 years ago. After a year of planning, and spending the equivalent of a down payment for a house, the evening went by in a blur. The one image that’s remained vivid is my friend giving an accidental, meandering Four Weddings and a Funeral-style toast that reduced the audience to catcalls (mortifying me in front of my 85-year old grandmother). The memory has given many a laugh, including me, over the years — even if it seemed like disaster at the time.

I also can’t easily call to mind much about those heady days building my first company. I’m unable to recall any pivotal new business meetings, except the one over dinner where I went to the bathroom, tripped, and fell flat on my face in front of the entire bar filled with happy hour patrons. Which I then had to pass again on my way back to my table and my new client, who after seeing all the attention had been alerted to the whole thing.

The fact is that we remember far more the times where things don’t go as planned, then we do when everything works perfectly.

Research shows clearly that the human brain retains more from the bad memories than the good. As explained in this New York Times article, mistakes imprint longer and in more detail as perhaps a cautionary tale of what to avoid next time.

I’m okay with that.

I certainly am not hoping for disastrous consequences to deal with. But for most of us, these small annoyances of planes missed, languages flubbed, wardrobe snafus, and life’s metaphorical (or literal) stumbles happen regardless of our planning. If you have kids like I do, it’s a guarantee.

I am a whole lot happier when I embrace them and deal with them, rather than trying to control them away or worry them into extinction. After all, these “oh crap” times are the vignettes that become our stories and our shared experiences.

It’s summertime, and like many of you, I’ve got a few vacations planned. I’m continually reminding myself as I try to lock down the plans to not just enjoy what goes right, but to find the joy in what doesn’t.

Sure, I’d love to permanently embed the high points. But I know I can’t. The memories of the good times will fade, and we’ll be left with our stories of the crazy mishaps. And these will get stronger as they’re retold with more amusement and whimsy as life goes on and we layer in new knowledge.

With any luck, this summer will end with a few new stories to add to the family lore.

Are your best memories of the mishaps? Share here or @kristihedges.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. Find her at kristihedges.com and @kristihedges.

How to Get Inspired

Pure Joy!

Kids are naturally inspired. How can you get some for yourself?

Last week, I spoke to a group of trainees in one of  the top wealth management programs in the world. If you saw the Pursuit of Happyness, then you know their life. Six months of intensive work, endless cold calls to find clients, and a high all-or-nothing benchmark of client money to get under management by the end of the program.

Most fail or drop out.

I was there to discuss how to cultivate personal presence to earn a client’s trust. You can imagine that I had a highly engaged audience as this was a singular goal for the entire group. The room was filled with motivated, energetic go-getters. Yet, one guy stood out. He was lit from within. His entire presence said positivity — not in a screaming, effortful way, but in a natural, grounded way. His comments were thoughtful, encouraging and self-aware. He was clearly inspired about not just this new career, but about life.

My money’s on him to make it, and be a smashing success.

I think a lot about inspiration. My life’s work is helping others communicate to influence, engage and build followership. Mostly, I focus on how to inspire other people, as I discussed in this prior post.

But it’s impossible to inspire others without being personally inspired. Inspiration is an internal light that, for most of us, shines intermittently. There are occasions when we have it in spades, and other times when we can’t buy it.

Inspiration is a unique feeling in the human condition. It starts inside of us, and emanates outward. It’s raw energy moving us forward. Others can see it, and feel it. We’re drawn to it.

And it’s different from motivation, which is a reaction to outside circumstances. You may be motivated to get a new job to buy a new house, but you’re inspired for you.

How do we exactly get inspired when we’re not? Or get out of a rut of comfort or complacency?

I’ve done my own research in this area, and it continues to be a learning edge. I’m generally an inspired person. However, like everyone, I lose it and know how flat life is without it.

One of my goals with my work is to bring more inspiration into the world. (It’s lofty; but hey, I’m inspired to do my part.) Here’s what I’ve found works in my research and experience to get a jolt of inspiration when you need it.

1. Carve out thinking time.

Neuroscience research shows that insights happen when we have a quiet mind. Sixty percent of problems are solved through these a-ha moments. Since insights trigger inspiration, we have to seek out times to think. In our data-saturated, distracted lives, this requires being purposeful. As I wrote about here, the book The Thinking Life offers practical ideas for incorporating thought time into your day. One favorite tip is making drive time, quiet time. Another is carrying a journal to work through ideas while waiting for meetings or appointments.

2. Seek new input.

Boredom and routine sucker punch inspiration. The new — whether ideas, experiences, or perspectives — help us to make mental connections. Novelty forces us out of our ruts and gives us fresh concepts to process. How you go about getting new input can vary with your style. I’ve seen people find success by starting a business book club, joining an outside industry committee, or committing to seeing friends regularly. Heck, you could start doing hot yoga. Just do it. And hit refresh regularly.

3. Take a step.

MLK said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” What gets us stuck is that we’re unsure of the entire plan. We’re in analysis paralysis trying to fit all the pieces together before we begin. But we may never see all the pieces from our vantage point at the bottom of the stairs, and so we have to start the ascent without clarity.

At times having a green field of opportunities is hardest. When I sold my last business, I remember feeling that I could take so many different avenues that it felt scary to start down any of them. I find this same condition with my stay-at-home mom friends seeking fulfillment by launching a new career. There are so many ways to go that the easiest choice is no decision.

Back to #2, that first step creates new input that leads us places we can’t imagine at the outset. Movement leads to inspiration. Plus, so much of life is experiential. You don’t know how you’ll feel until you’re there.

4. Get creative.

Inspiration often comes from using other, less-used parts of our intellect. Visuals have been found  to light up various parts of our brains, as has music. That’s why good motivational speakers incorporate both in their presentations. If you need inspiration, look at art, or photography. Put on music and go for a walk (my fave). The brain is a quirky organ. Often when we focus on something altogether unrelated, we gain an insight on a problem we’ve worked hard to solve for months.

5. Fill up your energy tank.

It’s Maslow’s hierarchy at work — if our basic human needs aren’t fulfilled then we’ll never travel up to the point of self-actualization. Fatigue undercuts inspiration at every turn. As does continuous stress. If those are your living conditions, you’ll battle to be inspired every day.

Tony Schwartz’s work has raised the dialogue from time management to energy management. Consider how important energy is to your ability to inspire yourself and others. What’s more critical? When you feel depleted, don’t accept it as a normal part of your life. You know all the ways to gain energy: eating better, exercising, reducing stress, sleeping more.

Another, less finger-wagging way, is to find fun. Seek out people who give you joy, and take time to enjoy them. Same goes for activities. We’re at our best when we have an inspired career, in an even more inspired life.

How do you inspire yourself? Comment here or @kristihedges.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage OthersShe blogs at kristihedges.com

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