When looking for ways to improve our lives, what is it we usually focus on? Don’t we tend to focus on things that will move our reality in a more positive direction? Typically, we look for ways to experience greater happiness, create more leisure time, or increase our level of success.
Regardless of the area we focus on, the intent is usually to make some degree of positive improvement, to notch things up to the next level. While this is a very important part of personal development, it is really less than fifty percent of the big picture. Why do I say that? Because in reality, the greater part of personal development comes from learning…
Negative life lessons
I know, it sounds strange and even a bit counter productive. After all, why would we want to focus on the negative side if our goal is personal development? But, what do I mean by “negative life lessons”?
Simply stated, a negative life lesson is when we learn what not to do. Maybe you are wondering: “How does learning what not to do help with my personal development?” To answer that question, let’s consider a few real life situations.
It starts when we are children
Most parents teach their young children not to play in the street. In this case, teaching them what not to do could easily mean the difference between life and death. All the positive things that child learns will be meaningless if he runs out in front of a car.
Later, when the child’s awareness has grown, he will learn not to go into the street without looking both ways. So, even though his perception has grown and changed, learning what not to do is still a vital part of his personal development.
You can’t move forward while losing ground
Essentially, negative life lessons are designed to keep us from losing ground in our personal growth and development. In the illustration above, the value is obvious. It involves life itself. In other situations, the benefits of a negative life lesson may be more subtle.
Sometimes we learn how to avoid physical or emotional pain. Or, we might learn that certain approaches waste time and resources. Successful relationships belong to those who figure out what not to do, and thus avoid needlessly hurting the feeling of the other person.
It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about raising children, building a business, or nurturing a meaningful relationship. Learning what not to do is an important key to success. Making progress in any of these areas means avoiding the things that undermine our positive efforts.
Shortcut the process for quicker results
Just as we can learn valuable new techniques and skills from those with previous experience, we should also learn from the mistakes of others. Look around at the abilities of the people you know. Some of them can probably serve as perfect examples of what not to do.
By analyzing why the efforts of others fail to produce good results, you can save yourself a bunch of time and energy. Whether it’s a dysfunctional family, a failing business, or poor health, there is always something you can learn. They’ve just shown you what not to do, and that is extremely valuable.
All life lessons are positive
I used the term “negative life lessons” only because they are the opposite of those life lessons designed to produce forward momentum. In reality, all life lessons are positive if we apply what we learn. Thomas Edison discovered 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb before he finally figured it out. What can we learn from his example?
Figuring out what works is often a process of elimination. By identifying and eliminating the thoughts, emotions, and actions that are not productive, we move ever closer to our desired outcome. You can apply this to specific goals, or your life in general. Avoiding what doesn’t work is at the foundation of all success.
A positive view of negative life lessons
Realizing the incredible value of learning what not to do should have a profound effect on our attitude. Every time we discover what doesn’t work, we move closer to solving a problem, overcoming an obstacle, or making a personal breakthrough. Every life lesson we learn, negative or positive, is a personal development treasure.
So, the next time your efforts don’t produce the exact result you were hoping for, take a moment to analyze the value of what you have just learned. Think of all the time and effort you will save because of that lesson. Consider how much more effective your future efforts will be. Now, aren’t you grateful for all those wonderful, negative life lessons?
What’s your favorite negative life lesson?
What have you learned from watching others?
The lines are open!