You sort advice from your nearest and dearest, you’ve slept on it for a week, you’ve even carried out a SWOT analysis for that all important life changing decision. To find that in hindsight, you made a bad decision. You went back to your ex boyfriend, you spent your savings on that LV bag to now find your car has broken down or you sent a derogatory email to the wrong colleague.
I wanted to write this post because in the past I have personally struggled with trying not to attach my identity to my mistakes and what it says about my character as an individual to have made those mistakes. As I write this I think how silly of me. Why would making a mistake define who I am and what that says about me as a person, because we all make mistakes right?
But it would really get to me. Other people weren’t making the same type of mistakes. Other people were living this mistake free life, evolving and working towards their goals and I just couldn’t get past my own battles and insecurities and accept that I’m not perfect. It took some serious one on one talks with myself to come to this realisation. Once I got there, I started seeing things a little differently. For example, I wouldn’t compare myself to others anywhere near as much as I used to because I accepted that they too made mistakes, they just didn’t vocalise it. What I found most liberating was networking with others and meeting new people. I’m an introvert (more on that another time) but engaging with others and learning about their experiences made me realise that I am not alone in my journey.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ― Albert EinsteinTweet This
Lets face it we all make mistakes and we all know what it feels like to wish we had a second chance to start over or to do things differently. How many times have you played over what things would be like if you didn’t get yourself into debt, where you would be if you didn’t leave your job or how things would be if you chose a different, a better and more loving partner.
Having regrets and replaying our mistakes only holds us back. Not making mistakes and living in fear to make a mistake will also hold us back. Seems like you cant win huh? The point is, you cannot avoid making a mistake because you will never know when you’re about to make one. I believe we can minimise the likelihood of making a mistake but we can never avoid them. Hindsight is 20/20 and as Oprah says ‘ When you know better, you do better’.
Of course we know that in certain situations, making a mistake can be fatal, in professional environments particularly. It could cost you a huge business deal, disciplinary action or even a negligence claim. We must take care not to make careless or thoughtless mistakes and we can minimise this by holding ourselves accountable. Having quality checks in place, seeking advice from our superiors, a diary and reminders to avoid missing deadlines. But I still think this serves to show that this only minimises the likelihood of mistakes and doesn’t prevent them. So what can we do? Worry constantly and remain in state of panic and paranoia until the world ends?
“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
― Rita Mae Brown, Alma Mater
“Some mistakes… Just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you. You, Clark, have the choice not to let that happen.”
― Jojo Moyes, Me Before You
I think that a lot of the time when we make a mistake we don’t want to own up to it (within ourselves) because we cannot believe we are at fault. We don’t want to accept that we have done something wrong or that someone else isn’t to blame. It can be hard to swallow that pill we call truth and come to terms with making a bad decision or exercising poor judgment. A lot of negativity and stigma is attached to making a mistake. We see it all the time in political decision making, celebrity fashion faux paus, saying the wrong answer in class, pulling out too quickly at a junction. How could you do that, what were you thinking are just some of the usual reactions one can expect from making a mistake.
Question: How do you react when someone makes a mistake?
The disappointment of your peers or co-workers, the regret phase, consequences and so the story goes. Personally I feel that if society changed its attitude towards how we deal with mistakes, we wouldn’t feel as bad and would be better equipped to deal with mistakes and face the consequences.
Well whatever society says, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. Why? Because eventually you will look back on the mistake(s) you’ve made and realise that you were able to get through it. Better yet, I bet you’ve forgotten some of the mistakes you’ve made! I can definitely think of a few and I cant deny that I definitely do not intend to make some mistakes twice. But on reflection I’ve learned from every single one of them. In having learned from my mistakes, some big and not so big, I’ve been able to grow and dare I say it, become a better person. I wouldn’t make the mistakes I probably made when I was 15 because I’m different. I have matured and I look at things with a different perspective and state of mind compared to when I was 15, even compared to a year ago!
The point is, making mistakes is part of the human process. The types of mistakes we make shows the type of people we are, making mistakes proves we are learning. Its not as easy to say or adopt this way of thinking when you are in the moment but what I found does help, is telling yourself that things will get better. You have never made a mistake and looked back a year later thinking, I still haven’t gotten through this. Yes there are circumstances where you are still dealing with the effects of it BUT your mind set is no longer experiencing the thoughts and emotions, which you felt when the mistake first came to light.
Your mistakes and even your failures don’t define who you are. Every experience whether good or bad, is an opportunity to grow and build your character. So next time you make a mistake I want you to think of these three statements:
1. I cant change it
2. My circumstances will improve
3. I am only human
I hope that this post was able to inspire you and generate some reflection and thought about your mind set when it comes to making mistakes and dealing with human error.