What to Do When You Make Mistakes
“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”
– Henry C. Link
We’ve all made mistakes, and we’ll continue to do so for as long as we live. Making mistakes is part of being human. Still, we’re often troubled by our mistakes, even when we remember that many mistakes turn out to be great gifts. Why do we have such a hard time acknowledging mistakes?
If you ever start feeling superhuman, wait a day or two – you’re sure to make a mistake, and you’ll probably feel bad about it. Making mistakes is nothing to worry about – it’s proof of your humanity. The time to worry is when you don’t think you’re making mistakes, because you probably are – you just don’t know it yet.
Oops. You blew it. Skrewed up. Fumbled. Checked out. Had a Senior Moment. Temporarily lost your mind. These are just some of the many phrases that may pop into your head when you have made a mistake.
We all make mistakes. The key is to recover from mistakes quickly and effectively, and then try to minimize their recurrence. Don’t think you’re alone, we’ve all made our share of doozies, and we’re not done yet.
The best way to handle things when you make a mistake is to treat it like an accident involving people who were injured. Do a mental triage to assess how serious the mistake is, the people it affects, and how soon it needs to get fixed. Try to keep things in perspective, but, of course, act fast if it’s a serious boo-boo. Here are some important steps to take when making a mistake:
1. Accept and acknowledge the mistake.
Don’t try to put the blame on other people, even if their actions (or inactions) might have contributed to the situation. Take responsibility and move on to doing any damage control that is needed.
The worse lies that we tell are the ones we tell ourselves, so don’t pretend it didn’t happen or ignore it.
Accept it. Embrace it. Take it in your hands, rub it in your face and say, “Yeah baby…I blew it. Nice one.”
You can get mad, but laugh at yourself also. Look yourself in the mirror and say, “Nice job. You really laid an egg on that one.”
2. Learn to forgive yourself.
It’s relatively – I said relatively – easy to ask others to forgive us, but hardest of all to learn to forgive ourselves. It perhaps helps to understand what that means. “To forgive yourself,” someone has said, “means giving up once and for all, all hope of ever having a better past.” We have the past we have, and the mistakes we made; we must understand it made us stronger.
3. Take some action immediately.
This is counterintuitive to your wishful thinking to wait and see if the mistake somehow corrects itself. It won’t. Notify someone ASAP. If nothing else, the sooner you contact someone involved with the situation and alert that person to the problem, the quicker you can resolve it. And you will feel better right away. If you do not act quickly, and put off tending to the problem, it will only make you feel more stressed, and the problem could get bigger with the passing of time.
4. Think about solutions.
Start thinking about solutions. How do you turn this into your advantage. If you can’t turn it into an advantage, how can you minimize the fallout. Can you keep the negatives from being as much as they could be.
5. Develop a plan of action to fix the mistake.
Every situation is different. Determine quickly what steps you can take to resolve things. Who need to know? What can you do to get things back on track? Ask key people affected by the mistake what they would do; it will get them to buy in. Then act!
6. Understand that mistakes are the way we best learn.
Man is a creature intended to learn primarily through making mistakes. We should give an A to the students who have made the most mistakes, for they are the ones who have learned the most. It helps to think that life too gives an A to those of us who have made the most mistakes, if indeed we learned from them – mostly not to repeat them. As the old saying has it, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” By mistakes, we acquire wisdom.
7. So what can you learn from this.
And lastly, think about what you can learn from this. What was your thinking, your beliefs and actions. What steps did you take to make the mistake that you did and how do you not repeat that mistake in the future.
If you think about it, that’s what you do when you learn something new. You take some action or perform a technique. You get a result. If it’s the result you want, you make sure that you do it that way every time.
If it isn’t the result you want, then you stop, figure out what you did that wasn’t quite right, adjust and try again.
When you make a mistake, go with it. Admit you blew it, look to see why, take action to fix it, learn and move on.
So, don’t be afraid of making mistakes! It is only when you have made enough mistakes that you can be called an expert so you can tell people how not to make the mistakes you made.
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