Out With The Old, In With The New: Figure Out Your Biggest Mistake

Throughout the month of December, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

3. Figure out your biggest mistake.

What one element of your life is the one element you would give anything to fix?

I’m not talking about the things you can’t fix, like incurable diseases or the like. I’m talking about things that, with some amount of luck or effort or intervention of others, could see significant positive change.

For the past few years, my biggest “mistake” has been my weight. Frankly, it oscillates. I’ll do quite well for a while, “chaining” good days together a la Jerry Seinfeld, but then something will break that chain for a few days and I’ll find my weight spiraling back quite quickly, undoing all of my progress.

It’s my biggest personal mistake, in my opinion, and it’s one that bothers me on a daily basis.

Of course, this is just one among many mistakes in my life that I regret. I can point to several other things that cross my mind at various times, from broken relationships to poor use of my own time.

When I reflect on them as a whole, though, my weight stands out, not so much as a personal appearance thing, but in terms of my ability to be a healthy father for my children.

If you’re like me, you’ll find that the one key mistake or problem in your life underpins many other smaller issues. Perhaps your debt load is keeping you from quitting a job you hate. Maybe your weight concerns are keeping you from joining a basketball league with many of your friends. Maybe your relationship with your parents is keeping you from enjoying time with your extended family.

That’s why it’s important to ask yourself if the big mistake you’re identifying at the moment isn’t really caused by something else. Maybe your inability to advance in your career is tied to poor public speaking skills, and those poor public speaking skills are also tied to your deep discomfort at being asked to be someone’s best man at their wedding.

It’s also important to remember that the purpose of this thought process isn’t to make yourself feel bad. The purpose is to dig down to that one thing in your life that you have control over that is causing the most negative elements in your life.

Spend some time thinking this through. Make a list of the things that bother you in your life, and see if you can figure out which ones are causing others. You may find that one or two things are at the root of everything if you stick with it enough.

Tomorrow, of course, we’ll talk about what to do once you figure out that one biggest mistake in your life.

If you enjoyed reading this, sign up for free updates!

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Johanna says:

    If your foremost concern is your overall health, your weight is not the best measure of that. It makes me so sad to see anyone characterize their own body as a “mistake.”

    If you’re looking for books to review, you could try “Rethinking Thin” by Gina Kolata or “The Obesity Myth” (also published under the title “The Diet Myth”) by Paul Campos.

  2. Tristan says:

    Looking forward to reading this series for the rest of the month. Some of your series seem to drag on… But even though this is a long one I am looking forward to the relatively short, yet thought-provoking posts.

  3. Kathryn Fenner says:

    I feel you. I have been overweight my whole life, but I got extra fat starting with the low fat craze. Finally getting diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease and getting on Synthroid helps–make sure you are thoroughly checked out for medical reasons–and make sure when they test your thyroid function they check your free T4–not the other tests….

    and try the *new* Atkins diet–I tried the old version, but couldn’t stick with it. I have religiously followed the new version since February, and after finding that any deviation blocked my weight loss, simply insisted on no deviations– a lot of time I notice that overweight people put everyone else’s needs first and either eat food they don’t even want to make someone else happy, or eat to stuff the resentment they feel at being a door mat.

    Best wishes!

  4. Suzanne says:

    Trent, we know you enjoy reading and devour books (like I do), so I hope you will take the time to look at one that all of us who were or are overweight and out of shape, need. The book that changed my life is titled: “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. When you finish that, you’ll want to read “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.

    Dr. Esselstyn’s son Rip Esselstyn has more recently come out with “The Engine 2 Diet” based on an experiment done by Austin Texas Firefighters. He proposes that you try his way of eating for 28 days and it will change your life. It did mine. I tried for 28 days and it was so easy and satisfying that I have continued eating this way for several months now. I didn’t plan to lose weight– just reduce my cholesterol. I feel so well, have so much energy. And lost weight without trying. The point is to eat the right foods and eat as much as you need of them. I love it!

    I first heard about this when Wolfe on CNN asked former President Clinton how he lost so much weight prior to Chelsea’s wedding. As he has had heart disease for some time and loved his cheeseburgers– I thought– if he can do it, I can do it.

    But it is the China study’s evidence about the American diet that convinced me and makes me a convert. I love the food I eat now and feel great. I hope for you and your family’s sake you get that book today and then report to the rest of us how your personal experiment with changing your eating goes. It may be the subject of an entirely new blog!

  5. Bill says:

    If carrying a little extra weight in your 30’s while being an American is your worst regret, you are doing pretty good. I started putting on weight starting around 30, about 37 I found out I had diabetes. Not a big surprise as everyone in my family has it. I monitor my diet pretty close and exercise a lot. Now into my 40’s with my weight/diabetes under control I’m very happy with my physical condition, but I could not do it with out the exercise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>