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What Went Right?

Think about going beyond, "What went wrong?"

At one time or another, any self-help author worth his or her weight in pulp is going to advise readers to analyze "what went wrong." In other words, how did you get yourself into whatever predicament that caused you to seek advice? Only by understanding what went wrong, these authors advise, can you make appropriate changes to your life.

This approach makes a big bunch of sense. After all, past behavior predicts future behavior. So, if you don't understand what actions got you into trouble you'll be likely to repeat them. And the trouble will continue.

Indeed, "post mortems" are a big part of life nowadays. If a policy, building, movie, blog (what have you) doesn't work out, folks want to figure out what went wrong. I applaud this kind of analysis. Great idea.

Yet, sometimes, just sometimes, things go right. When things go right we are, of course, happy. Also, we feel the need to get on with the next thing. We want to focus on what's not working and fix that.

I suggest, though, that reflecting on what went right is just as important as determining what went wrong. Here's a great question, called a counterfactual by us social psychologists: How could things have turned out differently? How might you have failed? Kind of strange to think that way. But productive.

For example, if you didn't blurt out an inappropriate comment at last night's party, reflect on why. What if you'd had more to drink? What if you hadn't been so other-focused? What if you hadn't caught "the look" from your partner?

Reflecting on what went right, by the way, will give a moment or two to bask in your own glory and to celebrate your achievement. Not a bad thing, methinks.

For more writing by yours truly, visit me at My Bad Habits. I am also on Twitter.

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