“It’s easy to never make a mistake, when you are hiding yourself away from the possibility of making mistakes. It’s those who jump out of the nest who will fall and fly. Never judge the quality of an individual based upon how many mistakes they have made. It’s easier not to make any.” ― C. JoyBell C.
Have you ever said something that offended your friend when you didn’t mean to? Or married someone who turned out to be a pretty bad fit? Or spent six years getting a degree on a topic you didn’t like very much? Or made an executive decision that cost your company hundreds of thousands of dollars?
Making mistakes is often as diverse as chalk and cheese, but what they all have in common is that everyone makes them. No one is immune to making mistakes, even scientists who are responsible for establishing what we consider to be true and medical professionals who are responsible for keeping us alive . It’s just not how life is designed. Life wants us to experience all of its nuances, so it throws us into the trenches, takes us back out, and throws us in yet again. It’s not because life is hard or “has it out for us”. It’s actually quite the contrary. Life is about learning, growing, and evolving, and the intelligence of life is designed perfectly and exquisitely to help each one of us do just that.
5 Ways to Get Over Making Mistakes
Knowing– with 99.9% certainty– that mistakes will be made, we’d be remiss not to prepare ourselves for what to do once they happen. Lo and behold the 5 things you should do when making mistakes and how to get over it.
1. Take 10 to 20 minutes to be mad or sad about it.
Let your mind run wild. Whatever thoughts your mind is thinking, whether “Argh! How could I have been so careless?”, “I can’t do anything right”, or “@#$! That situation was so unfair!”, give them a space to be. Do not become them but do notice, observe, and acknowledge them. These thoughts are your mind’s very natural reaction to something that hasn’t gone the way you’d hoped. To silence these thoughts would be a disservice to the essence of who you are as a human being with goals, dreams, desires, and on occasion let-downs.
So take some time to really hear your thoughts and notice the emotions underlying them. It’s likely that you’re experiencing some version of anger, frustration, or embarrassment. It’s also likely that underneath all this, you’re experiencing the very real and raw emotion of sadness and perhaps a sense of loss of what could have been. Whatever is there, let yourself feel it. It’s by feeling your rawest of emotions that your mistake can turn from a challenge into an opportunity.
2. Take a nice long deep breath.
Breathe in through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth. Now do it once more but slower, and then continue on for a few more moments at a comfortable pace. If you’re feeling particularly rattled, see if you can breathe in slowly for 4 or 5 counts, and breathe out slowly for 4 or 5 counts. Your breath, you see, is the powerful force guiding your body and mind in each and every moment, and mindfully attending to your breath can work wonders in bringing you back from the fight-or-flight ‘OMG’ experience of having made a mistake you wish you could undo.
As you breathe with conscious, mindful attention, your body’s physiology will remember– despite what your mind may have told it– that the situation you find yourself in isn’t a real emergency. Your heartbeat will slow down, your blushing, sweating, and/or trembling will ease, and you will become more relaxed. The best part about this? Your mind will follow suit. As your heart rate slows down, so too will your thoughts. As your body relaxes, so too will your mental chatter. And the redness in your cheeks will soon enough make its way to warm the center of your heart.
As you venture from the conditioning of your mind to the center of your heart, any thoughts of blame, guilt, or resentment that were present at the beginning will begin to subside. From the perspective of your heart, the only experience that can emerge is one of understanding, love, and compassion, so any tendency you may have to feel sorry, ashamed, or at fault will almost instantly become null.
This opening of your heart presents you with a beautiful opportunity to put into practice the principles of unconditional self-love. Don’t let the opportunity simply pass you by– use it to speak kindly to yourself like you would a dear friend. Use it to show yourself you care like you never have before. Above all, use it to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Forgive yourself for being part of a culture that teaches you to expect self-perfection in the first place. Forgive yourself for every time in the past that you’ve believed a mistake to be a sign of failure. And forgive yourself for every time that you’ve badgered yourself for doing the one thing that it turns out all humans do quite consistently and quite well: make mistakes.
4. Do what you can to resolve it.
Despite the desperation and fatality that might strike you when you first make a mistake, most mistakes are actually not end-all-be-all “end of the world” experiences. Many, in fact, can be and are resolved sooner than you can say “Will this ever get better?”
So once you’ve taken the time to let your mind run wild like a stallion and you’ve acknowledged the mental soap opera that the mistake aroused within you, turn the switch from what wellness researchers call ‘emotion-focused coping’ to ‘problem-focused coping’. Can you fix the mistake, try again, and have another go? If so, fix it, try again, and have another go. Whether it means replacing excuses with taking full responsibility, making a phone call to apologize, or mustering the confidence to go at it again, do whatever you have to do to actively improve the situation.
5. Move on.
Now that you’re now no longer badgering yourself for a mistake made, you are free to put the experience in your growing arsenal of “things that I wish hadn’t happened but that actually turned out okay”. This is the arsenal where all of life’s unexpected and often trying experiences eventually end up, and it asks that you learn from it, grow from it, and leave it in the past.
Your life is meant to unfold in the present, not to be lived in the past or dragged along behind you into the future. So do whatever you need to do to not let this past mistake negatively impact your present perception of yourself, of others, and of your world.
If you are to ascribe meaning to this experience, let it be “I won’t let my mistakes discourage me. Instead, I will let them inspire me. I will learn and grow with each choice and each mistake I make because I know that in life, there are no mistakes or regrets. In life there are only moments that change me and make me a better version of me.”
Repeat this process as often as you need, for each “eh, that’s no big deal” kind of error you make, and especially for all the “how am I going to recover from this one!?” mistakes. One thing that’s for certain in life is that you will make more mistakes. The question is, how will you choose to respond the next time you do?