We all make mistakes. Rationally we know that and when others make mistakes, we easily share the truth that it’s okay to make mistakes. We usually accept their apologies easily (if they seem honest at least) and forgive them. After all, to err is human.
But when we are confronted with our own mistakes, it suddenly becomes a lot harder to accept our fallibility. Recent news stories have once again shown the length to which people will go to try and cover up their mistakes. Shame about what you’ve done, anger at yourself for being so stupid, fear of the consequences, they can all contribute to a ‘flight response’ of trying to keep the truth buried. Unfortunately, the truth has proven to be very persistent and few people have managed to keep their secrets from coming out.
As youth leaders, we make mistakes as well. Some are minor and more easily dealt with, but every now and then we blow it big time. How to deal with our mistakes in a way that honors God? Here’s my advice.
Confess to God
First admit your mistake to God. Tell Him what happened and share your feelings. You may ‘feel’ like God is disappointed in you, or that He will be angry, but this is one of those instances where you have to trust God’s Word above your own feelings. God has promised us forgiveness and He will never turn you away when you come to Him. Trust in that promise and feel secure of the Father’s love. If you find that hard to believe, just read about King David’s many mistakes and then realize that after all that, he was still called ‘a man after God’s heart’.
I know it can scare the socks of you to be faced with owning up to a big mistake. You don’t know how people will respond, what the consequences will be, if you will ever be looked at the same. You may feel the urge to conceal at least part of the truth. Don’t. Just come clean and be honest. Trust in God to honor that and know that He will never leave you or forsake you, no matter what you’ve done.
Usually when we blow it, we can think of many factors that contributed to it. There may be ‘extenuating circumstances’ and there may even be other people involved who are just as much to blame as you are. But you need to take responsibility and own your mistake. Don’t shift the blame, don’t involve others. They’ll need to come clean with their roles themselves.
When you are confronted with your mistake, try to apologize personally to those involved as soon as possible. Be honest about what you did and apologize. When you’ve made a mistake that’s affected a larger group of people, apologize publicly to them all. You can do it in a meeting, or send them all a letter or email. People may get angry with you and may not easily forgive you. That’s something that’s hard to deal with. Just keep praying for them and guard your heart from bitterness taking root and leave it at that. It’s not your job to convince them to forgive you, leave that up to the Holy Spirit who’s much better at that.
Learn from your mistakes
Especially if you’ve made a big mistake, you need to learn from it. So spend some time analyzing what went wrong. What do you need to change to make sure you won’t make this mistake again? Maybe you need to change certain policies, or make chances in the way you work. Do what you need to do to make sure you will never make this mistake again. Ask someone to be your accountability partner if necessary, or seek a coach. Share these lessons with others, so that they may learn from your mistakes and to create a leadership culture in which there’s room for mistakes.
To me, this is the hardest part…we can be so disappointed in ourselves, so angry. And I’ve learned that there’s no fast and easy way to come to the point where I forgive myself. All I’ve learned is that it takes a lot of time spent with God, to have Him fill me with His grace so I can extend that grace to myself as well. I take comfort from the many stories in the Bible in which people made mistakes, but were still reinstated by God. Think of Jonah, Moses, David, Samson…God hasn’t changed and neither has His love and forgiveness.
Do you find it hard to forgive yourself for your mistakes? How do you get to that point eventually?
This article was co-authored by Rebecca Tenzer, MAT, MA, LCSW, CCTP, CGCS, CCATP, CCFP. Rebecca Tenzer is the owner and head clinician at Astute Counseling Services, a private counseling practice in Chicago, Illinois. With over 18 years of clinical and educational experience in the field of mental health, Rebecca specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety, panic, trauma, grief, interpersonal relationships using a combination of Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Psychodynamic therapy, evidence-based practices. Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Sociology and Anthropology from DePauw University, a Master in Teaching (MAT) from Dominican University, and a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Chicago. Rebecca has served as a member of the AmeriCorps and is also a Professor of Psychology at the collegiate level. Rebecca is trained as a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT), a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP), a Certified Grief Counseling Specialist (CGCS), a Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional (CCATP), and a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional (CCFP). Rebecca is a member of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Society of America and The National Association of Social Workers.
There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
This article has been viewed 141,922 times.
If you’re a human being, you’re going to make mistakes—there’s just no way around it. However, letting go of those mistakes can be tough, especially if you’re dealing with feelings of guilt or regret. It may take a little time, but you can learn to accept your mistakes and forgive yourself for what’s happened in the past.
The stories I tell about my past problems are more hurtful than what other people do to me. I hope this will be helpful for you in seeing if any of these things are going on in your life.
For example, Google Adwords suspended my account back in 2012. I was just getting started in making profitable ads on Google. It was painful to see the email saying my account was suspended. That’s what Google did to me.
Where was the real pain?
The real pain was in the bitter resentment I chose to feel about it for years after that. Google had done this wrong to me. Google was an awful company for being so heartless with it’s advertisers. The real pain was the judgment I passed on myself for getting that account suspended in the first place. 99% of the pain from having my Adwords account suspended was how I felt about myself. The real pain is not whatever happened, it’s how we react to it.
How many times have I went through someone doing something to me that may be hurt at the time? Once, I got slapped in the face by a kid because I threw his basketball across the gym. I was plotting against that kid for at least a year after that. I was thinking about how I could get him back. I thought about what I would’ve done if he wasn’t with his two friends. That was the majority of the pain.
The slap only occurred for a brief moment in time. The sting on my face lasted another couple of minutes. It wasn’t that bad. The way I felt about it lasted a long time. How I felt about it lasted at least a year.
The more resentment I had in my life, the easier it was to build new ones. Every time someone else did something similar to me, that original sin was still there. Every time I thought about getting in a bad situation with someone, that slap came back into my mind. It’s still in my mind today as something I remember. The only way out of that today is through forgiveness.
Now, I understand that it was okay that I got slapped. It was okay that I threw that kids basketball across the gym. Forgiving myself is the main part of letting go of the situation. It didn’t hurt as much that I got slapped because that was something someone else did. It hurt more that I decided to bow up in front of that kid and his two friends and throw his basketball. I had done something nasty first and I received a nasty response to my original nasty action.
I’m surprised that it’s not the other people I’m mad about, it’s what I did that bothers me. Usually, I have to forgive what I did in this situation because I can’t control what other people do. It’s easy for me to forgive someone else. I have the hardest time with forgiving myself and being honest with myself.
I have to understand that I did it in a bit of a misguided way. I have to then accept that it’s okay what I did and it’s okay what happens to me. There’s nothing wrong today. There’s nothing that needs to be done. We must have unconditional love and acceptance for how life is today. With that we can take that chance to learn and not make the same kind of mistake again.
I’m grateful to have learned this after so many more times reincarnating the exact same thing. You don’t have to wonder whether things like reincarnation is real or not. When you look around, you can see how one little thing that happens often gets reincarnated. I’m grateful today to have this lesson to share with you, I hope it’s useful for you today.
I pray today to forgive as soon as possible what anyone has done to me or any situation where I’m the victim. I pray to forgive myself for whatever I did to put myself in the position to be the victim. I know forgiving myself is much more important than whatever happened to me next. I pray that you have the opportunity to forgive yourself for the sins you committed and the faults you have. I pray that you can forgive everyone else for reminding you of the things you don’t like about yourself.
Thank you for reading this. I’m honored you’ve spent this time with me. I hope you have a great day today.
Keep moving forward in your journey with my 12 Steps For A Spiritual Solution To Any Problem course!
We have all made mistakes in the past but if we let our regrets linger and haunt us, we will never know what we can become or accomplish. Don’t hold on to your past mistakes just because you spent a lot of time making it. Stop giving yourself a hard time for the mistakes you have made, decisions you could have changed, and time you’ve wasted. Here’s how to overcome past mistakes and move on with life.
1. Your mistakes are not as bad as you think
Other people have made even bigger mistakes. Just because you made a few wrong turns doesn’t mean you’re doomed forever. Make the best of where you are right now instead of letting your mistakes define you.
2. You can’t erase your mistakes without erasing yourself
Stop wishing you could delete all the things you have done wrong. If you erase your past mistakes, you will erase the person you are today. Find the silver lining. You wouldn’t be the strong person you are today without the mistakes you have made.
“Sometimes you have to make a big mistake to figure out how to make things right. Mistakes are painful but they’re the only way to find out reality.”
3. Focus on building a new relationship with yourself
Instead of trying to erase yourself, the first thing you need to do is accept all the mistakes you have made. Don’t hate yourself for allowing them to happen. You can’t change the past. Just love who you are, mistakes and all. The magic can only happen when you start seeing yourself in a different light.
“To move on in life you have to come to terms with your mistakes. Accept your past and it can never be used against you.”
4. Choose learning and growth instead of condemning yourself
If you keep focusing on your past mistakes, you will never get the chance to grow. Learn something new. Master a new skill. The best way to feel better about yourself is to grow. Once you gain self-confidence, you will discover a whole new world and realize your true potential.
5. Focus on moving forward
Reshape your goals instead of continuing to allow your past mistakes to influence your decisions. Set new goals and do the things that you have always wanted to do. You are capable of leaving the past behind and you have what it takes to start fresh.
“Forget it enough to get over it. Remember it enough so it doesn’t happen again.”
6. Live your life differently
Avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. Change your habits and priorities. Wake up early. Fill your days with positive thoughts. Do something productive every day. Be more confident. Stop thinking you’re not good enough. Make the necessary changes to become the version of yourself.
“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
Discover Your True Calling & Purpose In Life Today
My goal is to help you connect to your true self – to help you move away from conventional thinking and create a life definition that works for you.
Download this eBook for FREE by entering your name and email below now. We’ll begin to uncover your true calling and discover the very reason you are alive.
It’s so easy to be hung up about past failures, fears that the same things may happen again, or on regrets of big and small mistakes, and the list goes on and on. But really, it all starts right now, the past doesn’t matter any longer and you’re becoming someone else. Give yourself time, and a chance.
Everything in your life up onto this point, even your mistakes, has shaped you in one way or another. The important thing to remember is that you get to determine how so.
I am sure you have a few regrets or two. If you do, here are some ways to hopefully help you move beyond obsessing over them.
1. Own up to it.
How are you ever going to grow as a person if you never give yourself a chance to learn from your own mistakes? If you don’t admit that you did something wrong, then how are you going to take the necessary steps to insure something like that doesn’t happen again? You want to allow yourself to improve and grow, if you do not acknowledge what needs to be changed you will be stuck in the same old patterns with the same old outcomes.
Sure you’re probably reluctant to own up to your mistakes because you don’t want people to notice them. Most of us are not proud of our mistakes and try to hide them from even more shame and embarrassment. But the truth is that most people closest to you already know what has happened or have a pretty good idea. When you own up to your mistakes, make amends and try to make the necessary changes to your behavior so that they don’t happen again, not only will others have a greater willingness to forgive, but you can move on by forgiving yourself. In addition, owning up to your mistakes will more than likely gain you more respect from others, but the most important person that will have more respect for you is you.
2. Learn from it.
Like it or not, we tend to learn something from difficult situations. It could be something simple or something big. The most life changing lessons usually come from the most soul crushing mistakes. You feel the pain from the mistake so deep that you can barely pull yourself to look back at it. This is the most opportune time to make necessary and profound changes in your life. Take the time you need to call your courage up and take a long hard look at what you have done -then focus on ways to avoid it ever happening again.
There is often a lesson and a blessing that derives from even the darkest times whether it derived from our doing or not. The important thing is to be strong enough to face it, humble enough to learn from it and patient enough to wait for the blessing.
3. Make peace with it.
Nothing good will come about obsessing over something that cannot ever be changed, what’s done is done. If you keep beating yourself up for something you are regretful for, you are only going to suffer more and delay your growth in recovery. It’s imperative that you remember that although a mistake you made may have helped shape you, it doesn’t get to define you unless you allow it to. We are human and we all make mistakes.
Recovery is a complete lifestyle change and that includes even how you talk to yourself. So no more “I was so stupid!” or “I wish I wouldn’t have don’t that! I would do anything to take it back!” It’s done and over with. Your attention should be on what you can do differently right now – because this is the only moment you have control over. In the past there may have been quite a bit of negative self-talk. Why not shake things up and practice some positive self-talk? Try saying things to yourself as often as you can like “I am worthy of love”, “I am strong and courageous enough to change” and “I deserve to love myself”. Keep saying positive things to yourself until you actually believe it, feel it and live it. Don’t allow the overflow of negative feelings about the past limit who you can be in the future.
4. Move on.
Once you have gone through all of the necessary stages in order to have inner peace with your past, give yourself permission to move on from it. Everyone has baggage, everyone has made mistakes and everyone has regrets. No matter what your past looks like, you are still a person who deserves to be loved. You are still a person that deserves not only a good life, but a great life.
Nobody can hold you back from becoming the best version of you that you possibly can but yourself. The time has come to forgive yourself, walk with your shoulders back, your head held high and create the life you desire!
The spiral staircase has always intrigued the yogi-designer in me. The visual draw, similarity to DNA, and cosmic patterns, as well as its mathematical genius, could be enough, but the structure can also mean more.
Picture yourself tripping up in work, life, or love. You’ve made a mistake, said the wrong thing, or didn’t come through with your end of the bargain.
You think, how did I let that happen? What a (fill in the blank) I am. I can’t believe I did that, again. If only I could rewind.
These aren’t the greatest feelings, it’s true. However, we live our lives in irony. Though we dislike how we feel having just tripped up, we continue to beat ourselves up way after the fact.
We cause our own suffering. Furthermore, we seem to forget that when we make mistakes, we grow. An atmosphere of growth is integral to happiness. So create happiness by seeing mistakes as true growth opportunities.
Although yoga, psychology, and conventional wisdom scream at us to live in the moment, I say we are not just the present moment.
We are very much our past in the most rich and helpful way. We can use past mistakes to yield a shiny new perspective and, in turn, create a new outcome.
If we allow them, our mistakes can fuel our awareness. In helping us decide how to act and react in a fresh and fruitful way, they can bring us closer to happiness and further away from causing our own suffering.
Picture a most beautiful spiral staircase in Rome, Paris, London, NYC, or Barcelona. Visualize its ample room.
Now visualize yourself on this staircase, midway up. You’re accomplished. You’ve come all this way. Look up at where you’re going and down at where you’ve come from. Peek around and up at the spirals of stair above; over and down at the spirals below.
Now comes the part that we don’t like that’s part of being human.
You’ve suddenly tripped up and missed a step, and you’ve probably done something similar before. Look down at your feet. Yes, you are here, right now, and it’s close to before—but, not exactly.
You are wiser today than yesterday.Though you might feel bad because you’re encountering the same or similar problem, this time it’s with a different view and varied perspective.
Accept where you are. You will immediately suffer less. Remember this is merely one moment in time. It only defines you and your worth if you choose to make it adefining moment.
Look down the middle of the staircase at what you’ve ascended. Keep hold on this view of yourself and see where you are now in comparison.
Yes, this human moment has come to find you again, but you’re now higher up and can respond from a different place, literally, figuratively, emotionally, and intellectually.
Ask yourself, how can I respond from this higher place instead of causing myself pain?
Welcome to your new spiral staircase-inspired mantra: I have a view. I hold wisdom. I use both.
Think it. Say it. Act on it. Let it create your new character.
I’ve practiced this mantra and used the visual of a staircase for a long time; however, it’s newest for one particular aspect of life these last two years.
In sports and yoga I have always asked a lot of myself. I’ve competed with myself and failed to listen to my body.
I journeyed close to one year+ with a sports hernia, then chronic SI / low back issues, and a tear of my adductor during a restorative yoga pose (of all times). I could go on about my wrists, my left shoulder, my neck, and the running injuries, but I think you get the picture.
I did an A+ job at beating myself up, which only added to the extreme sadness of not being active each time I made myself suffer.
But that was then and this is now. I now have wisdom that has changed the way I treat my body. I have proven that I can be gentle to myself but still strong.
Also, I have learned an insane amount about the human body. Though I still like to push when I know it is “healthy” to do so, I assess from that higher place. I assess where I’ve been, where I am, where I really want to go, and how I want to feel.
On that next spiral up I remind myself there’s no final or “perfect” destination off the staircase of life. It is merely a journey with many similar situations. However, with growing wisdom and a richer perspective, we are better able to deal, enjoy ourselves, and suffer less.
It’s freeing to know that we are acting from a more intelligent place today versus yesterday, don’t you think?
As I sit here typing while icing tendonitis in both arms, I challenge you to give yourself a break next time. Woe is not you. Wisdom is.
Here are 5 ways to change your perspective:
1. Find strength in the visual of a staircase.
Make it your new BFF. Yes, you’re confronting something similar again, but this time it’s higher up the staircase. Trust and respond from this place. Ask yourself, how can I react differently this time given the learning from last time?
2. Remember that everything transforms.
Connect with the fact that with up comes down, with light comes darkness. With down comes up, with darkness comes light.
When you find yourself smack in the middle of a day filled with disequilibrium, remember that yourequilibrium must be right around the corner. Trust in the flow of your life and that of the universe.
3. Adopt a growth mindset.
Accept the idea of a failure en route to your goals. In essence, plan for some roadblocks, nod when they come (you knew they were coming), and move on as quickly as possible.
If you Google more on a growth mindset, you’ll see the myriad of benefits it has for your continued success in all aspects of life. Exhibit the mindset in your thoughts, words, and actions, and teach it to your kids.
4. Practice saying “I’m sorry,” especially to those you wouldn’t normally say it to.
Saying these words filled with meaning forces you to move from your comfort zone and look at things from a different side. Healthy, yes, but more importantly, it also brings you closer to the people who make life worth living.
5. Do a headstand or down dog.
Here’s another instant way to change your perspective. It’s difficult to feel and see things the same way if you’re upside down.
Namaste. And remember, when in doubt, take the spiral staircase. It really is the most pleasant route. See you there. I’ll be the one repeating the same mantra.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
We’re programmed to hold ourselves to a high standard—and many of us have a harder time forgiving ourselves than we do forgiving others. While self-forgiveness looks different for everyone and won’t happen overnight, here are some steps you can take to let go of the past and start the journey toward acceptance:
1. Recognize that the past is the past.
To learn how to forgive yourself, you must first acknowledge that the past is the past. This seems fairly straightforward, but when we can really wrap our head around the fact that we can’t undo the past—that the past is done, that those things happened—we open ourselves up to more acceptance.
2. Become clear on your morals and values as they are right now.
The reason most of us feel guilt or shame for our past actions is because those actions were not in line with our current morals and values. In this way, our previous wrongdoings can actually clue us in to what we hold now important. Think about what you value now and how that’s different from the past. This process will help you start to get a clearer picture as to why you’re hurting and get you closer on the path to self-forgiveness.
3. . then, start acting in accordance with them.
Commit to replacing the negative thoughts and behaviors with more appropriate ones that are in keeping with the morals and values you just identified. By so doing, you’ll reaffirm to yourself that you can handle situations the way you want to. This can lead to a sense of pride, which is a huge part of building self-esteem and forgiving yourself.
4. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
Our actions always depend on the skills we have, the frame of mind we’re in, and how we perceive a situation in the moment. Maybe when we made the mistake, we didn’t have as much objectivity or we acted out of survival mode. Maybe we’d let stress build up, which put us at a higher risk of responding poorly. Whatever the factors, cut yourself a break. If you learned from it, it wasn’t in vain.
4. Give yourself a “redo.”
Never underestimate the power of a “redo.” Write down how you would have done things differently if you could go back and do it again. In doing so, we affirm that we not only learned from our past mistake but that if we had the skills we have now, back then, we would have done things differently.
6. Identify your patterns of behavior that you regret.
When I work with clients on moving on from their past, it can be very overwhelming because they see so many regrets. It’s often helpful to categorize these and focus on patterns of behavior instead of individual regrets.
7. Tackle the big ones first.
There may be some regrets that seem to come up again and again for you, and those are going to require some extra work. You might want to clear your conscience by actually calling up the person you wronged and apologizing to them.
8. Turn the page.
At some point, you have to accept that the past has happened, and you’ve done everything in your power to amend previous mistakes. It’s now time to turn the page and accept those events as part of your story. They’ve all contributed to making you who you are. Being grateful for those experiences allows you to move on and truly forgive yourself.
9. Cut yourself some slack.
When we learned how to ride a bike, most of us realized it would probably take a few tries before achieving perfection. New behavior and thinking patterns are no different. They’re both skills. Cut yourself some slack and recognize that you’re going to make mistakes–we all do.
10. Move toward self-love.
The last step to learning how to forgive yourself is building self-esteem. The best way to do that is practicing self-love. Think kind thoughts about yourself, and show yourself some compassion.
If self-love and self-acceptance do not come easy to you, consider working with a trained therapist for an outside perspective. You are more than your past mistakes.
Want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join our upcoming live office hours.
How often do you feel that you can’t move on? No matter how hard you try, you are living in the past. Like you are carrying a heavy burden that gets you stuck.
“Let go,” your friends tell you. It sounds so simple, yet feels so hard. You can’t stop holding to a grudge or a betrayal. Every time you want to move on, the past captures your undivided attention.
Rumination is a curious habit. It’s like binge-watching bad movies on Netflix. That’s what happens when we can let go of the past. We make sad stories play nonstop. The more we watch our life’s movie, the more it hurts.
What if I tell you that it’s possible to stop the rumination process? But, first, let’s understand why we get stuck.
Stop Losing Yourself into the Past
If we can’t change the past, why do we continue to live it?
According to neuroscience, the brain handles negative and positive information differently. Negative experiences require more thinking and, thus, are processed more thoroughly. This causes our brains to become better at remembering adverse events.
Reliving sad memories makes us feel like a hamster in the wheel — no matter how hard we try, we can’t move forward.
You can’t change how your brain works. But you can train yourself to get off of the hamster wheel. That requires cutting the emotional attachment we have with the past, especially negative experiences.
We usually have a hard time accepting that someone hurt us. Recognizing an unhappy ending makes us feel weak and embarrassed.
Eckhart Tolle -the most popular spiritual author in the United States, according to the New York Times- once said, “There is a fine balance between honoring the past and losing yourself in it. You can acknowledge and learn from the mistakes you made and then move on. It’s called forgiving yourself.”
You get the point. To move on, you have to reframe your relationship with the past.
How to Stop Ruminating
1. Stop trying to be the hero of your story
We’ve all been hurt. It’s sad and embarrassing — no-one wants to look weak. That’s why we construct our idealized version of the past. And blame others instead of taking ownership for what happened.
Everything in life has a beginning and an ending. You don’t need to continue rehashing your past to keep it alive. Make peace with the end, especially if it was ugly, and move on.
2. Don’t let others define who you are
Blaming others when things go wrong makes us lose control. We are letting them define the terms of how we live.
You can’t control what other people do, but you can control how you react. Focusing on what people did (to you) is a distraction. Regain control of what you can manage and choose to live life on your own terms, not someone else’s.
3. Learn to forgive yourself
When something goes wrong, we tend to blame ourselves, too. We have a hard time accepting that we make mistakes and let our perfectionist mindset take over.
Did you make a mistake? Fine, we all do. Learn to forgive yourself. Errors can be corrected. Mistakes are not a final destination but a stop that prepares us for the journey. We must learn from them and continue moving forward.
4. Don’t let your problems define you
When we get so stuck in a problem, it becomes hard to separate the event from who we are. According to Eckhart Tolle, we also create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity.
Your stories shape you but don’t define your identity. Don’t let a bitter experience become who you are. Letting go of a past story makes space for new ones. Focus on the here and now and become at peace with yourself.
5. Build a Teflon mind
All our struggles stem from attachment. We are so in love with someone that we can’t separate the ‘me’ from the ‘we.’ We are so passionate about our careers that we let our job titles define our identity.
There’s nothing wrong with loving someone or our jobs. The problem is when we are so attached to them that the fear of losing them doesn’t allow us to enjoy them today.
Ajahn Brahm explains the idea of “Teflon Mind” in this humorous and inspirational talk. The British-Australian Buddhist monk advises that the best way to let go of something that hurts is not to let it stick first.
Letting go of the past is not forgetting what happened, but to let go of our expectations. We don’t suffer because a relationship ended. We suffer because we wanted it to last forever.
Instead of letting broken expectations get stuck in your mind, honor the positive experiences– both past and present.
Let go of attachment
Most people can’t let go of the past because they don’t appreciate their present. Reframing our relationship with our past requires us to stop thinking of how things should be and accept them for what they are.
As Dalai Lama said, “Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.”
Letting go of the past doesn’t mean that things weren’t good while they lasted. It’s about remembering the good moments instead of allowing an unhappy ending cloud the whole experience.
Want to let go of the past? Start by appreciating what you have here and now: your present.
Maybe your workplace snafu was a little bigger than that—a costly mistake that damaged your employer’s earnings, credibility, or public image.
Or maybe you made a mistake that simply made you seem like a complete idiot, like double-booking VIP clients, so they both showed up to your office’s reception area to meet with you at the exact same time. (Yes—that happened to me!)
Feeling embarrassed? Ashamed? Worried that your professional credibility is hanging by a thread? Take a deep breath. You’re going to get through this—and maybe even solidify your reputation as a quick-thinking problem solver in the process.
Here’s your seven-step recovery plan.
Step 1: Allow Yourself to Feel Awful About it (But Not for Too Long)
In response to a stressful scenario, like making a mistake at work, it’s natural to feel frustrated, embarrassed, or even distressed for, say, 10-15 seconds. But ideally, after 15 seconds, the feeling should pass. A tiny shadow of negativity may linger, but in general, you get over the snafu.
However, sometimes—for all kinds of reasons—emotions get “stuck,” and instead of dissipating after a few seconds, they keeping building and building, like steam swirling inside a kettle.
When that happens, it’s important to release that pent-up steam in a healthy manner and as soon as possible—by, for instance, going for a quick jog around the block, taking a kickboxing class, journaling in your diary, or talking it out with a therapist, coach, or friend who can give you a sense of perspective. Which brings me to:
Step 2: Keep Things in Perspective
It can be difficult to maintain a sense of perspective when you’re upset with yourself, but try to make sure your emotional response is proportional to the blunder you made.
With very few exceptions—like if you’re a pilot, surgeon, or military personnel—making an error at work is not a life-or-death situation, and most mistakes can be resolved or corrected right away.
So you uploaded the wrong file, double-booked an important meeting, showed up late for a presentation, or included a typo in an important report. You’re alive. No one was mortally wounded. On the freeway of life, this is a parking ticket, not a multiple car pile-up.
A friend of mine who is a professional copywriter once said, “I love my work because nobody dies if I’m not witty enough with a tagline. I do my best, but ultimately, it’s words on a page or a screen. It’s not life or death!”
Step 3: Confront Your Worst-Case Scenario—Then Let it Go
In life, there certainly are consequences for mistakes. But sometimes, your mind exaggerates and distorts the potential consequences for your mistake, sending you into a state of agony and stressing you out, which, ironically, can cause you to make more errors in the future.
It can be helpful to confront your personal worst-case scenario—whatever that may be—so that you can make peace with it and move on.
You might say to yourself, “OK, I goofed up. And you know what? Maybe I will get fired. It’s highly unlikely, because it’s very costly and time-intensive for employers to replace great employees and I usually do a terrific job. But if that happens? I will survive. I am resourceful and creative and I won’t let anything—not even a job loss—derail my life, my health, or my happiness.”
Step 4: Apologize if You Need to—But Don’t Overdo It
If you need to apologize for your goof, do it swiftly and briefly: “Hi Jim, I made a mistake and I’m working on correcting it ASAP.”
Often, that’s the only sentence you need to say.
No excuses. No justifications. No verbally flogging yourself. Just acknowledge the error and move on. Honestly, people are usually so preoccupied with their own goals, projects, and issues, they’ve probably forgotten all about whatever you did wrong by the time you reach this step!
Step 5: Create a Game Plan for Next Time
Evaluate what you need to do differently next time to make sure this same mistake doesn’t happen again. Were you multi-tasking beyond your ability, with dozens of tabs open on your browser? Were you rushing too fast to hit a deadline, missing important details in the process?
If you find an issue that you can address, do so. And for extra measure, if you feel that it would be beneficial to tell your boss about how you’re going to prevent mistakes in the future, do that, too.
Step 6: Take Better Care of Yourself
Most Americans are sleep deprived, and persistent sleep deprivation will eventually catch up with you—in the form of impaired attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. Some studies indicate that working while sleepy is just as bad as working while under the influence of alcohol.
Aside from sleepiness, poor nutrition, dehydration, sitting too long in your chair, and lack of exercise can all contribute to poor performance at work. So if you want to avoid making mistakes in the future, get serious about your physical wellbeing.
Start treating yourself like a professional athlete—sleep, train, work, fuel, sleep, and repeat—and you might notice the less brain fog, more clarity, and fewer errors.
Step 7: Earn Back Trust Through Your Actions—Not Just Your Words
The best way to earn people’s trust and admiration is to consistently deliver great work. Period. Do that, and occasional bouts of forgetfulness or slip-ups here and there are likely to be quickly forgiven—and forgotten.
Bottom line: One mistake—even a big one—does not have to derail your life or career.
President Bill Clinton was publicly shamed for infidelity. He went on to receive the UN Citizen of the World Award a few years later in honor of his human rights work and contribution to the planet.
Several of Henry Ford’s early business ventures failed—multiple times!—before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company.
Ever hear of Akio Morita? His first invention was a terrible rice cooker that burned rice, which, obviously, no one wanted. He sold less than 100 of them. That mistake didn’t stop him from trying to improve, though. He kept working and eventually his little gadget company—Sony—became a household name.
The point is, you can fail—even very publicly and dramatically—and still reinvent yourself, move past the mistake, and create a rich, amazing, successful life.
So, if you’re still mentally thrashing yourself about the document you forgot to attach to
that email the other week, let it go. You are going to be just fine.