Moving on after a mistake

Moving on after a mistake

One of the themes I regularly hear from my Coach in Your Pocket clients is about making mistakes. We all make them, and we all hear and say wonderful (and yes, sometimes pithy) quotes about the power of mistakes, how mistakes help you learn and grow, and how without risk there would be no mistakes.

Even so, mistakes are still hard. They get our Mongers fired up, they make us feel out of control, and they remind us we are human, which although obvious can be a hard thing to admit for those of us with High Functioning Anxiety. All of this can make navigating the aftermath of a mistake challenging.

Life is filled with mistakes: from a wrong turn to marrying the wrong person. Sometimes there is a lot to learn from a mistake and sometimes the biggest lesson is that we make mistakes and we need to let go.

Rather than getting stuck in blame or right vs. wrong, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself.

1. What am I feeling? 

The tendency is to quickly move into “fixing it” mode, but a huge part of making a mistake is honoring the uncomfortable feelings that come up. The doubt, insecurity, fear, sadness, just to name a few. Give yourself some space to sit in that uncomfortableness for a minute before you move on to the next question. 

2. Is there anything to learn here?

Honestly look at the situation and name the things you learned (positive and negative). Perhaps it is a failed relationship: What did you learn about the type of people with whom you are compatible? What did you learn about communication skills? What did you learn about commitment?

3. If I could go back, what would I do differently? Or moving forward, what will I do differently?

Sometimes it is helpful to look at what you could have done to prevent the situation (you know, hindsight being 20/20 and all) and to recognize that even though the ending wasn’t a win, you still learned a ton. In either case, it is helpful to think about the future and what you will do differently to learn from the mistake.

4. Where was I not being honest with myself? or Where was I not listening to my gut? or Where was I listening to someone else’s opinion (aka a “should”) rather than my own voice?

This happens a lot in relationships especially. Clients frequently tell me they knew something was wrong before they got married. It happens a lot in careers too. People often tell me they knew their boss wasn’t going to work out or they weren’t a good fit for the job, but they took it anyway. It is helpful to know where you didn’t listen to yourself or where you weren’t being honest with yourself. Be kind here. This answer is helping you build more self-loyalty; it isn’t a right or wrong answer. 

5. What went well?

We so often get caught up in the mistake that we forget to acknowledge what went well in the relationship, the job, or the risk. Even if it is just a small mistake, not everything about a mistake is bad. Sometimes we learned how to do it differently or gained insight or learned about ourselves. In every situation, things can go well too, and it is important to acknowledge those things.

Yep, mistakes happen. We all make them. But as the saying goes, it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, it is the lessons you learn from them. So try.

Make a mistake. Feel the disappointment. Learn what you can. Move forward.


New on The Happier Approach Podcast

This week, we’re finishing up the three-part series on the A.S.K. method for dealing with your High Functioning Anxiety by examining the third step: Kindly pull back and see the big picture. I talk about those real mess-ups, the missed deadlines, the times we scream at our kids or embarrass our husband in front of his boss. The times we really mess up. Check it out on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or over here.