Who has never made a mistake? Is there anyone reading this that has never made a mistake? I WANT to meet you! The truth is we are human beings and we make mistakes so why in the world are we afraid of making mistakes? Why do we feel that we are less than if we do, and oh my goodness what are people going to think of us? Let’s be honest here- we have all experienced that heart-sinking feeling we get when we suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake. In the moment, it’s difficult to switch perspectives and say, “I’m grateful I had the opportunity to make that mistake and learn from it.” When faced with an error or an unfortunate misstep, being thankful, or just plain being ok with it, is often the last thing to come to mind.
Making mistakes is uncomfortable and can have negative consequences. So we strive to avoid making them; which in many instances translates into “being perfect.” However, no matter how hard we try, we are not perfect (and never will be) and making mistakes is an essential part of living life. We can’t know everything or do everything perfectly. To grow in experience, we have to learn and practice. Life is a series of trial, error, and success. It is a process of experimenting with our knowledge, intuition, abilities, and judgment in various situations, both ordinary and serious.
Consider these insightful words by author and novelist Richelle E. Goodrich:
“Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift. And eventually we find that lessons learned from that discouraging experience prove to be of great worth.”
There are a great many people who have expressed similar sentiments. What a wonderful philosophy for approaching this aspect of life. However, remembering this profound truth in the face of a mistake doesn’t come easily. Viewing life from such a perspective takes time, intention, and practice.
So how do we go about finding the underlying blessing, or gift, in our mistakes? First, by recognizing that this is process, which will become more natural the more we practice. And considering the nature of life, we’ll have plenty of opportunities! I know I have!!
- Upon discovering your mistake, rather than trying to cover it up or distract from it, allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling—embarrassment, disappointment, foolishness, guilt, frustration, anger, dread . . . Your feelings are valid. Acknowledge and accept them for what they are: specific emotions connected to a specific event. We are meant to move through our feelings and emotions, not bury them, it is truly the only way to let them go.
- Admit your mistake as soon as you can. Take responsibility for it, and avoid looking for ways to lay the blame elsewhere. Apologize if necessary, leave behind your expectation that all will be immediately forgiven, have no expectation of the other person’s reactions. However, when it comes to self-forgiveness, go easy on yourself. Berating yourself isn’t going to make things better, it actually makes it worse. So go ahead and give yourself a hug and actually say, “I forgive you.”
- Correct the mistake if you can. If there is some way to make amends or fix the error, make that a priority. If you cannot correct it, take whatever reasonable steps you can to lessen the impact. If there’s nothing you can do, acknowledge the consequences and practice acceptance. Turning to your sacred mantra at such a time can be an enormous comfort. Here’s a visual of this:
If you were mean to a dog, and realize that this was a mistake and you wish you hadn’t done that, but you cannot find the dog to make amends, try this, be kind and loving to every dog you see going forward. It absolutely is transformational!
- Contemplate your reasons for making the mistake. Did you not have enough knowledge? Were you feeling rushed, stressed, or tired? Did the situation require your focused attention, but your mind was elsewhere? Get curious and consider all the possibilities. This step is where you begin to understand the lesson. Once you know the why, you will be better prepared for a similar situation. Remember, with conscious experience comes wisdom.
- Practice reflection. When all is said and done and the day is coming to a close, letting go of the specifics regarding the experience—the who, what, where, why, how, and oh my!—is the only option remaining for peace in the situation. Reflection is your opportunity to say, “Yes, I made a mistake, I took (or will continue to take) the necessary actions, I learned a valuable life teaching, and I am ready to move on.”
Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. Of course some of the larger ones we make are more difficult to process. There is no doubt about that. But great or small, we can process our mistakes when we go within, get in touch with our source of guidance and self-forgiveness, and go back out into the world a little wiser. Maybe then we can say, “I’m grateful I had that opportunity to make that mistake and learned and grew beautifully from it.”
What do you do when you have made a mistake? What steps do you take to process it?
I would love to hear your stories of transformation.