A couple of months ago, while playing with my cat Pico, I accidentally scarred him for life. 

He loves to play more than any cat I know, and we were doing our usual routine where he sprints around chasing a string toy and zooming through his cat tunnel. 

The only thing that was different was my new coffee table. It’s entirely glass (so chic, I know), and well, I think you know where this is going…

Pico sprinted through the tunnel and WACK

I felt terrible. 

Ever since then, he hasn’t played like he used to. Did I mention I feel terrible?

I knew he’d be skittish for a while, but I expected him to go back to normal eventually. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how quickly he learned this lesson and changed his behavior, and admittedly, comparing it to my own lessons. Why is it that my cat can learn a lesson immediately and I still overpour coffee at least once a week?? 

But then I realized: not every lesson is as obvious as a smack in the face.

We learn most lessons over and over again.

Yes, we have some experiences that impact us forever, but for the most part, we learn through repeated mistakes. Whether it’s consistently staying up too late or overcommitting yourself on the weekends, you’ll likely have to learn some lesson a few times before you can change. 

While that might seem discouraging, I find it to be a relief

Every time I make the coffee mistake, my first instinct is to chastise myself. I ask how could you?! like I’m the naive young love interest on a daytime soap opera that just caught her boyfriend cheating. Why, Derek, why??

In reality, this is just part of the process. You can’t expect yourself to be “one and done” with life lessons, especially the difficult ones. (My coffee spills are certainly a benign example.)

It takes time to learn how to move forward in a new, and better, way. No need to beat yourself up in the meantime.

To being better without punishing ourselves for leaving the basement light on again,