Making mistakes is part of the human experience. No matter how smart we are, or how educated we might be, everyone screws up. What separates those of us who succeed from those who seem stuck in time, unable to move forward, has less to do with the act of making the mistake, and more to do with the actions we take following the mistake.
Some mistakes are bigger than others, and the consequences vary, but the principle remains the same: your response to a mistake will have a greater impact on the outcome of an event, than the mistake itself.
Let’s look at an example:
Julie, Laura, and Claire all share a livelong goal of completing a fitness challenge. All three women decide to sign up to run a half marathon (13.1 miles). They lead busy hectic work lives and they have family obligations, so they all make the mistake of not training. When race day arrives, none of them are able to finish the run. Julie has a cramp in her leg and a minor muscle injury, Laura suffers from exhaustion and dehydration and has to be taken to the medical tent for assistance, and Claire, realizing that she was unprepared decided to drop out all together and she watches the race from the sidelines as a spectator.
Following the race, all three women acknowledge that their decision not to train for the event was a mistake. Instead of feeling accomplished, they feel disappointed.
Julie takes the event as a sign that she can’t do it…so she returns to the routine of her life, and for years, whenever she sees or hears about a race taking place, she feels a pang of jealousy that she isn’t out there. She also feels regret that she lost her chance. This also carries over to other areas of her life; she second guesses her ability to accomplish any large, life changing goals. She also turns to food to treat her stress and gains weight.
Laura takes the failure as a mistake she’ll never make again. She takes the time to organize her schedule, decides to cut out TV and social media. She uses that time to join a running club where she receives support and motivation to stay on track. Nine months later, Laura crosses the finish line at her first half marathon and goes on to run several others. She meets lots of new friends in her running club, and has seen tremendous improvements in her stress level, her weight, and her overall fitness. She also feels more confident and motivated to accomplish larger goals. She changes careers, inspires her family, and improves her life.
Claire takes the mistake as an opportunity to reflect and reassess her commitment and interest in running. She comes to the realization that running is not her true passion. She wants to accomplish a fitness challenge, but only chose running since her friends Julie and Laura had signed up to run the half marathon. She decides to take a shot at bike riding, and immediately falls in love with the sport. She rides every day, participates in several locally sponsored riding events, and similarly to Laura, she’s never felt better. She has more energy, greater fitness, and less stress. She feels more focused at work, and has even gotten her family involved in bike riding which has brought them all closer.
Making a mistake could be the launching pad to having a true breakthrough if you let it. Here are a few simple things to do when you make a mistake:
- Allow yourself to feel bad about it. It’s important to acknowledge what you are feeling. Give yourself a set time period to feel bad about what happened. Truly experience the emotions, don’t try to bottle them up or hold them in, let it all out. Then, when you’ve released those feelings and emotions, take a few long, slow, deep breaths and thank the universe for the learning opportunity.
- Pause and reflect. Determine what went wrong. What role did you play in the making of the mistake, and what could you have done differently? Look for the lesson in the experience.
- Re asses your goal and create an updated action plan. If you still want to accomplish this goal, recommit and set out an updated action plan based on the lessons you learned from the mistake. If you realize the goal is not for you, re asses what a more suitable goal would be, and create that plan.
- TAKE ACTION. Use what you’ve learned and allow it to make you better and more prepared for setbacks…then try again!
Recovering from a mistake, like many things in life, is much easier said than done. However, if you allow yourself to use the experience as an opportunity to be better, more experienced, and more prepared, that mistake you made could end up being the event that leads to your ultimate success.
Remember – How you choose to respond to a mistake is 100% in your control. Allow it to make you better!