If we are supposed to grow older but wiser why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over again? Isn’t midlife considered the time of awareness? If so, why can we not see these patterns?
It is said we keep repeating the same errors repeatedly because we have not learned the lesson yet. However, breaking old habits requires a lot more work than simply setting an intention and hoping for the best. For instance, I don’t know about you but I keep buying things I don’t need just because they’re on sale or sometimes prioritising non-urgent things just because they are easier to do. However, although I might feel awkward I don’t make such a fuss about it. I know that I have to do some work on it.
My Italian background has probably helped me to have a more relaxed approach to life in general, but I am aware that there are several ladies out there who are very severe with themselves when they repeat mistakes. Let me tell you, before beating yourself up over it, it might be useful to know that the decision-making process is usually linked strongly to our emotions and behavioural habits. In particular, according to scientists, reactions we’ve learned through childhood are incredibly powerful and often remain with us subconsciously until we recognise what triggers them. Also, even though the knowledge and experience we might have accumulated along the years might be a good inner compass when facing challenges, being often under pressure can reduce those cognitive functions which allow our subconscious to be more in control.
Researchers say making repeated mistakes has to do with neural pathways that get created as we do things, too. The reason we keep making the same ones is that it’s easier for our brain to default to current habits; it doesn’t even matter if they are not the most appropriate for ourselves at that time.
So, how can we change our habits? Taking steps to reduce our stress or anxiety is the best way to open up space for us to make more conscious decisions. Also, according to cognitive neuroscientists writing a diary of what’s going on in our environment when we keep doing the same things over and over, may highlight an evolving pattern.
Only when we understand our old mindset, we will be able to adopt a new one and retrain our brain to respond differently. It does take some time and repetition, but it will work. Next time you make the same mistakes stop seeing yourself as a failure. Most failures are temporary setbacks and potential learning experience rather than absolute disasters. Rather than focusing all of our energy thinking about when and why we made a mistake, it’s better to focus on the times we made the right choice and how that felt. Be wise, age playfully!