Mistakes happen to everyone. A natural part of living and growing as a human being is to make mistakes. Occasionally the mistakes we make can be huge. I’m not talking about the mistakes that anyone can make on a daily basis, but the type of mistakes that can cause tremendous amount of stress and often have dire consequences on our lives. Mistakes that can cost the company you work for hundreds of thousands of dollars or result in you getting fired. These are mistakes that may have been part of the reason your relationship with a loved one is non-existent. Your mistakes could have involved drug abuse, an action resulting in prison time, cheating on an important exam, or making a decision that resulted in you owing large amounts of money. These types of mistakes can happen to anyone and there are ways you can bounce back from a mistake, recover and forgive yourself for what happened.
1. Feel those emotions. When you first make a huge mistake, you may feel an intense amount of anxiety and even denial about what happened. You are going to feel pain, fear, regret and go over every detail that led to this event. That’s okay. Take a deep breath. Let all those emotions out. Cry, scream, do anything that will help you realize that what you are going through is painful.
2. Accept that you made a mistake. Your first instinct when you make a huge mistake may be to try to minimize your part or even blame your mistake on another person. It may feel much easier to play the role of the victim than taking responsibility. Own your mistake. Be honest about every action that you took that led to the mistake. As hard as it can be, take ownership of your mistakes. The only way you can move forward from this mistake, is by being accountable for your mistakes.
3. Remind yourself that this mistake does not define you. Yes, this mistake was huge and it likely may be something that you remember for the rest of your life, but this mistake does not define you as a person. Remind yourself of all the positive and wonderful things you do offer to the world. Keep in mind that you will also become a better person by how you manage this mistake. While volunteering in Los Angeles, I befriended a homeless man who had made a series of mistakes that led to him living on the streets. However, this fact can be tough to remember at times because he got his life together, went to rehabilitation for his alcohol abuse, moved in with a family member that lived a 1000 miles away and is now living a much happier life and has a good job. The mistakes you are making now do not define you. Try to not give that mistake more power over your life by letting it consume your self-worth and guide your decisions down a negative route.
4. Reflect and learn from the mistake. Now that you have accepted the mistake you made and realized that you can move forward from this mistake, it’s time for you to reflect on what happened and what you can learn from this. The only car accident I have been in to date was my fault and ended up totalling my mother’s car beyond repair. Having that accident was very embarrassing and made me extremely nervous to be in a car again but I gained some huge lessons from that experience, that have positively influenced my life. I learned that I needed to be a more defensive driver, ask for help if I don’t know the rules or how something needs to be done and I now understand that there are huge consequences due to a lack of attention.
So what happened in your situation? Was there a miscommunication that never got resolved? Did you perform a task before you were fully ready and prepared to handle that task? Were your priorities mismanaged? Did you spend too much time with a social group that encourages negative activities? This mistake is an opportunity to learn and figure out what went wrong. Just because this is the worst mistake you have ever made, doesn’t mean that you have to continue making huge mistakes in your future. Figure out what went wrong so that you can move forward.
5. Apologize and Fix the mistake however you can. Taking ownership for a mistake means that you need to apologize to anyone you hurt, including yourself. Approach the person that you hurt and sincerely apologize for what happened. Avoid giving excuses for what happened and don’t try to minimize your role in the incident. Apologize from the heart. Also apologize to yourself as well. You made a mistake and that’s okay. This is the time to forgive yourself and move forward.
Work on repairing the mistake if possible. Some mistakes you may not have the opportunity to repair such as if you have lost a huge amount of money or have been fired. However, if you have the opportunity to fix things then do so now. Don’t allow the mistake to continually affect you by not addressing what went wrong and trying to make things better.
6. Move forward and take it day by day. Recovering from a mistake can be challenging. You might be in a position where you need to save large amounts of money to pay off debts. Maybe you are jobless and in the process of searching for something new. Or maybe you still have your job but have to earn back the trust you lost from your colleagues and prove that you can do better. Recovering from a mistake will take time, so as difficult as you may feel right now, work on taking steps forward and give yourself small achievable goals to build. If you are caught up in drug abuse, then focus on going to rehab and taking each day as it comes as you get closer to living a fully drug-free life. Or if you there is a large rift between you and your family, then start taking small steps to have a healthy relationship with your family by calling regularly and staying in touch. Recovering from a mistake can take months or years, so work on doing what you can to build a better future right now.
7. Make better decisions moving forward. Terrible mistakes can often serve a purpose and typically that purpose is to help guide you in making better choices and becoming a better version of yourself. All the mistakes I’ve made, small or huge, had a lesson I needed to learn. A couple of mistakes I made at work helped me realize that I needed to stop playing the role of a victim and needed to take ownership of what was happening. As a result, I became a more successful worker and realize that I’m in complete control when I sense something is going wrong. Instead of dwelling on your mistake, use the mistake as an opportunity to show you how you can work to make things better for yourself. This isn’t the last time you will make a mistake and it’s possible that you may be facing a crossroads where you can either make the same choice, or a different choice that has positive results in your life.
Don’t be so hard on yourself when you make a mistake and don’t dwell on it either! Everybody makes mistake, everybody. Many people in the world have made huge mistakes too. How would you feel if you discovered someone else made a similar mistake? You probably wouldn’t be so upset at them and realize that these things happen and that what ultimately matters is how the person bounces back from their mistakes. Because again, mistakes happen. It happens to everyone. What is most important is how you manage your mistake and move forward from this.