Mistakes: Circles and Spirals

“Don’t worry, I’m not making the same mistakes again.”
“No, you’re making all new ones.”
John Hammond and Dr. Ian Malcolm in “Jurassic Park 2”

I love learning from experience, esp. via. reflection. In case you ever asked yourself whether anyone else is trying to improve themselves — yup, some are, the interesting ones. Seriously, the most interesting people I know are trying to improve themselves, challenging themselves to become better. This is one reason for this site and this book.

But sometimes you look back at yourself and think that you are moving in circles — making the same mistakes again and again. It’s a bit like Anya in “Buffy – The Vampire Slayer” (without the laughs):

“Humans make the same mistakes over and over. I saw it when I was a vengeance demon. Some guy dumps a girl, she calls me, I exact vengeance, blah blah blah, the next year, same girl, different guy. I mean, after you smite a few of ‘em you start going, “My goodness, young lady … maybe you’re doing something wrong here too.”
Anya, an ex-vengeance demon for women scorned, in “Buffy – The Vampire Slayer”

However, looking more closely at the mistakes that we do — apparently again and again — I wonder whether it’s less turning in circles and more moving in spirals: The mistakes seem to repeat themselves, but in reality, they (also) are on a different level. They are still “mistakes” and still “learning ‘opportunities’“, but you also did grow and improve. The similarity, the familiarity of the mistake makes it easy to overlook the differences. And sometimes, even if part of it was a — or the same — mistake, other parts might have improved. For example, your reaction to it.

In this sense, when you are discouraged because you make “the same” mistakes over and over again, have a closer look. Are they really the same mistakes? Or did you — at least — do some things better? I might not only point you to insufficient safeguards against your ‘usual’ mistakes, but guide your attention to the issues that really need more effort.