I’m happy to admit, just like everyone else, I’m imperfect. But getting over my mistakes is a lesson I’ve found to be a struggle.
Whether I act too soon, say the wrong words, or miss my goals for the day, one thing is for sure — replaying events 20 times over inevitably leads to zero progress.
After a recent blunder, I started with what I imagine most people do — asking myself why.
Quite honestly, I hadn’t slept so well and was admittedly in a bit of a drowsy daze.
I’ve noticed most of my oversights happen in this way.
But knowing this didn’t really make it feel any better.
After all, what could that knowledge change now?
Then I thought perhaps trying to understand what I could have done differently would help.
Until I realized no-one plans an error, so even if I could zip back in time, what difference would it have made?
A sense of relief
The next thing I found myself thinking was “If only I’d have been more aware, or left 5 minutes sooner — maybe it wouldn’t have happened”.
Suddenly faced with a world of alternative outcomes I started wondering “maybe it could have been worse.”
Although it sounded a bit cliché, the process of imagining all the ways I could have messed up even more, actually made me feel somewhat grateful.
I realized I could choose to focus on the ways events could have gone better and beat myself up, or consider how the situation could have had much deeper consequences and feel relieved.
What if it was someone else?
In a bid to be more compassionate towards my error, I considered — if this was someone I knew in the same position, what would I say to them at that moment?
I’d console them of course.
Having researched and practiced a great deal about negative self-talk, I still occasionally catch my inside voice muttering insults, demanding to know how I could have been so stupid.
Yet I’d never in a million years speak to one of my friends that way.
So instead, why not take a moment to console myself I thought?
It is upsetting when unfavorable situations arise, and someone that’s frustrated or disappointed needs compassion not hate.
Realistic, not idealistic
As I thought more about other people, I realized I couldn’t name one person I know who hasn’t ever done something wrong — even among people I admire most.
In addition, knowing they make mistakes doesn’t make me think any less of them.
I didn’t expect them to be flawless.
I was realistic in my expectations of others, not idealistic.
At this point, it struck me that if everyone slips up from time to time, then why was it so frightful that I had?
What was the upside of this perfectionist expectation I had that I should never, ever falter?
There’s an ease that comes from allowing yourself to be less than 100%.
Perception vs. reality
One misfortune can spiral fast.
In that instant it’s easy to feel less faith in my capability, see other disappointments as more catastrophic, and even small tasks seem like an insurmountable challenge.
All from being knocked into a negative mind frame from the first.
On the other hand, when the day feels as though it’s going well, I barely notice if the washing needs doing.
Nor does it bother me if situations change or someone lets me down.
I just move my attention to the next opportunity and carry on.
My abilities are the same in both scenarios, it’s just my perception of them that changes.
Knowing this made it easier to decide I wouldn’t pressure myself to over-perform today.
Instead, I’d listen to my body telling me it was tired, and commit to doing only what was absolutely essential.
Realistically, the rest could wait until tomorrow.
Finally, and perhaps most testing of all, was giving up the temptation to ruminate. Especially as I accepted I couldn’t edit the past by thinking about it.
The problem wasn’t going anywhere, so a short distraction wouldn’t hurt, especially if it helped me get back on track.
Instead, I called a friend, listed three things I’d achieved anyway, made a cup of tea, and committed 20 minutes to do something I enjoyed before trying to get back to work.
I’ve noticed that in these times, being kind to others can make the greatest improvement of all.
The day I made a mistake, it became the inspiration to write this article.
That in itself feels like the greatest lesson of all.
The day I made a mistake, it became the inspiration to write this article. That in itself feels like the greatest lesson of all.
Annie Vladev she is Interested in the influences behind our behavior and how we communicate.