“Ugh! I can’t believe this is happening!”
I found myself lamenting another bad decision. “Who makes mistakes like this?!”
I was feeling embarrassed and inadequate especially since the mistake wasn’t particularly major. However, itwas a silly mistake and now I was beating myself up for it.
Everyone readily admits that making mistakes are part of life. Unfortunately the aftermath of a mistake can be worse than the mistake itself.
The feelings of guilt, embarrassment and self-doubt can deplete the emotional reserves very quickly. Insecurity floats to the surface: “How could I let this happen?” “Even an idiot would have seen this coming.” “I’m never making another [big] decision.” Sadly, this last self-talk decision is subconscious and we say it over and over until it is a reality.
Without warning these emotional downers can erode someone’s confidence to such a large degree that they are paralyzed when making another major decision.
Society doesn’t help. Kids are quick to laugh at the one that gives the wrong answer in front of the class. There are hours of YouTube videos highlighting mistakes of others.
It feels safe to following the old adage, “onward and upward!” Or as my East Coast friends would say, “Fughetaboutit.”
This is bad advice. Forgetting about it will only solidify the feelings of inadequacy and reinforce the faulty decision making logic that got you into this mess to begin with.
If we can’t simply forget a mistake was made and we can’t suppress the feelings of fear and inadequacy, how do we get past mistakes and make better decisions?
Here are 4 steps to moving forward after a set back from a mistake.
1. Accept the situation
Whatever happened happened. And it stinks. The situation was less stinky before and now it’s more stinky. Dwelling on what happened will keep you from accepting the situation. Accepting the situation will allow you to spend time figuring out the next move to improve the situation instead of rehashing the woulda-coulda-shoulda of the mistake.
2. Own your part
Studies show that when outcomes are positive most people attribute the outcome to their behavior. When outcomes are negative most people attribute the outcome to circumstance and outside influences. In reality, both positive and negative outcomes are determined by both behavior and circumstance.
The most effective question a leader can ask after any event is this: “What did I do that led to this outcome?” Remove circumstance, “market forces,” and other people from the conversation. This is about you.
3. Determine the root cause for the mistake
Assume whoever contributed to the mistake had the best of intentions at the time. No one wakes up in the morning with the intention of making a disastrous decision. Blame, shirking responsibility and denial are killers in this process. Don’t allow them.
Find out where the strategy went wrong. If you had to make the same choices again, what information would you need to have the outcome be different? Is there a change to be made in a process that would prevent a similar mistake in the future?
4. Keep the mistake in perspective
For whatever reason, emotions can influence our judgment of how bad things are. Like the pre-teen who yells, “My life is RUINED without [insert latest technology here]!” Determine what the REAL extent of the damage is. Don’t over- or under- state it.
There are mistakes that literally kill people. For most of us, we will never make one of these mistakes.
Ask questions that give perspective: how long will it take to make up the ground that was lost? Will this still haunt us a year from now? A week from now? Tomorrow?
Bottom line: mistakes are inevitable. But they do not have to haunt you creating fear and anxiety. Work through these 4 steps to move past the mistake and make better decisions in the future.