I Messed Up, Now What? 3 Things to Do When We Make a Mistake

Making a mistake is part of life, here's 3 ways to turn a mistake into an advantage.

     For some reason, when we have done something wrong, it is easier for us to stay in the past and hold it against ourselves than to move forward.  It does not seem to matter that doing this makes life less enjoyable and keeps us locked in the past.  This post focuses on helping us see the opportunities for growth and learning, even at the times where we have not been our best.  If you put in the work and open your eyes to new possibilities, you will empower your life.  To get you started, here are three strategies to do just that!

Empowering Strategy #1:  Taking Accountability

woman taking accountability

     One of the most important steps in moving past your mistake and working through it is taking accountability for your role in it.  You must be able to identify what your actions were that led to the outcome of the situation.  Once you have identified your actions, it’s time to genuinely accept what you have done.  

     Acceptance in this case means looking at the whole picture and recognizing impacts of your behavior, both the good and the bad, rather than blowing it out of proportion.  Once you have done that, then you can begin to formulate strategies for how you will make amends.

     Accountability is not a comfortable process, but it is liberating.  It can release you from feeling shame as you accept your actions and formulate steps to move forward and prevent them in the future.  That is why it has to be genuine accountability!  If you are not truly delving in and genuinely accepting, you are not going to implement what you have learned and are more likely to repeat the cycle in the future.

Empowering Strategy #2:  Make Amends

two people making amends

     If your actions have hurt another in some way, it is up to you to make amends.  The key to making amends is that it has to be real, you have to mean it.  If you are saying “I’m sorry” as a way to check a box, you are not doing anyone any favors.  Making amends means owning up to your behavior by taking accountability and finding a way to make a connection with the other person.

     When you seek to make amends, you want the other party to know that you have identified what you have done and are open to making it right, which will take a lot of humility on your part.  You also need to be open to the feedback from the other person, as there will be grains of truth, even if the words hurt, that can help you grow and learn even more from the situation.

Empowering Strategy #3:  Check Your Thinking to Slow Your Roll

man checking his thinking

     Emotions and thoughts can run amok when you are dealing with a situation where you have done something wrong.  The more you let these thoughts and emotions run unchecked, the more intense they get, and strangely, the more you will believe them.  It's like running on auto-pilot and assuming they are correct, even as they get more and more exaggerated!

     To help combat this and slow things down, you need to take the time to look at your thinking.  Take some time to ask yourself the following questions:  what do I think about myself after making a mistake?  What led me to act in that way?  How much of my thoughts and feelings are correct?  What do I have to learn from this?  When you take the time to stop and slow down your thought process, you can ask direct questions such as these to gauge where  are you at currently.

     Do not lie to yourself when you check your thinking!  The only person who truly knows if you are lying or not is you.  If you want to move forward then you need to be honest with yourself.  This will help you identify your ways of thinking that are productive, unproductive, or just plain unnecessary.  Again, make sure you are honest with yourself as you start to challenge your thinking.

     The hard part about shame is the intense emotions it creates that make it feel 100% accurate, even though it’s not.  I want you to challenge yourself to find seven pieces of evidence to support the deeply negative and shameful thoughts that you have.  They must be specific and concrete examples.  Just coming up with “I’m a bad person” is not enough, find specific reasons for why.  Now, you need to find seven pieces of evidence that say the contrary to your negative thought.  

     Does this seem counterproductive?  Why should you spend time finding evidence that supports your negative thoughts?  The fact is, most of your negative thoughts are balloons full of air. You  believe that you are a bad person and you roll with it as if it is absolute truth.  However, when you peel back the label and look for specific pieces of evidence as to why, there's usually a lack of evidence.  Yet, when you look for evidence to the contrary, it is a lot easier to find when you actually look.  Eliminate the broad labels with no substance and begin to see yourself more truly.  That is how you empower yourself to move forward from hard experiences!

     Mistakes and the fallout from them are a part of life.  It is up to you to decide whether it becomes a prison that keeps you locked in the past or if you see it as a way to learn and grow.  Empowering your approach means seeing opportunities that you did not see before and finding ways of being that keep your integrity intact and your life moving forward.  Living in the present means learning to leave our past where it is and taking the lessons it provides for us and applying it into our now.  You can do this!

Categories: Personal Growth