September 14, 2023

Anne of Green Gables said, “I never make the same mistake twice.” I find that inspiring, but impossible to imitate with the limits on my working memory.

Instead, I keep an ongoing list of things I did that turned out badly, and what I wish I’d done instead. Others might see it as a list of regrets, but I see it as a collection of future plans for similar situations.

Like if someone asks a question that I can’t immediately answer, I’ll say I need time to think.

Or if I start to have a meltdown around someone who can’t handle seeing me in distress, I’ll leave the room.

Or if I feel my anxiety rising, I’ll reduce audiovisual input and increase proprioceptive input.

And then, I iterate. If something doesn’t work, I change the plan.

Most brains learn from the past subconsciously and intuitively, but my brain needs explicit instructions – even ones I write myself. Otherwise I either repeat my mistakes, or freeze up to avoid a previous mistake because don’t have a better plan ready.

All brains learn. All brains grow. It’s okay for that to be manual, not automatic.

P.S. If you want to read more about this concept, search online for “Implementation Intentions” or “Trigger-Action Plans.”

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.