A few days ago, I experienced what I consider to be an epic failure. I made an honest mistake impacting not only me, but someone I consider to be a mentor. As much as I tried to apologize, I couldn’t take back what I’d done. By the time I was alerted to this unhappy fact, the potential damage was done.

I’ve lost sleep over the situation. I’m preoccupied with what happened though I can’t do anything to make it better. Or can I?

This afternoon, instead of dwelling on the failure and my powerlessness over the situation, I decided to look at the lessons I learned from it. I also looked at the emotions it activated. Getting past it requires me to understand which of my character defects are keeping me stuck in the first place.

When you a fail, let someone down, or become embroiled in conflict, you have two choices. Learn from it or don’t. While you are debating which option you prefer, think about this. The majority of people who don’t stop to evaluate how their words, actions, thought-patterns and emotions initiate and/or contribute to an unpleasant situation, will continue to repeat similar mistakes.

When you are in pain, worry or strife, take action. Invest your time to sort out what happened. Start with paper and a pen. The exercise of writing things down, getting them out of you head and on paper, frees up internal space and allows you to look at the situation from a new perspective.

The process has four parts and requires you to share your findings with another person. If you have a mentor, she’s your go-to for this activity. Don’t have a mentor? I recommend finding one. Meanwhile, you can share your conclusions with a person you trust, like your pastor or someone you know who master the skills you are trying to develop.

The most important part about sharing your outcome is TRUST. You must trust the other person will keep your confidence. Explain what you are trying to accomplish, so when you are ready to talk about what you’ve discovered during this exercise, your mentor will be ready to provide you positive, necessary feedback. Sharing it is the point at which you will experience explosive personal growth and freedom!

If you are ready to develop some serious self-awareness, let’s get started on the writing part of the exercise. First, on a blank page, make four columns. Start filling them out using these guidelines.

  1. Column One: The people, institution or or principles you are angry or hurt by.
  2. Column Two: (The cause) Why are you angry/frustrated/hurt…?
  3. Column Three: (The affect) What is affected? It can be your self-esteem, finances, ambitions (what you are working toward/goal that is threatened), emotional security, relationships, romance and fear.
  4. Column Four: This part can be the most difficult for people not used to this process. In column four, you list your mistakes. What is your part in the situation? Where have you been selfish or dishonest (with yourself or others)? Where has fear dominated you? Where are you to blame?

You might be looking at this list thinking, “No way!” We are not conditioned to look at our own conduct, attitudes and what needs to change in us. Society tells you the responsibility lies anywhere but on you. You must ditch this excuse-making logic if you want to grow.

You’ve written your list, now what? The next step involves your mentor or chosen confidant. In a private setting, you need to verbally share with her everything, one situation at a time. As you work your way through the list, make note of your observations, as well as those of your mentor. If you do it right, you’ll see patterns of behavior showing up. You’ll learn what really drives you.

It’s only by owning your part, all of it, you gain the freedom to break old behavior patterns. Once you are aware of the truth in any circumstance, you change. It’s automatic.

Use this exercise anytime you get stuck. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you grow. Your perception will heighten. Your character defects become manageable. Most important, your skills and abilities will skyrocket, creating a path by which you will achieve your dreams, and become healthier in the process.

Originally published at medium.com