So You Made a Mistake?

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a client on a Friday afternoon and gave him the wrong information! Yes, I made a mistake, and then I beat myself up about it all weekend. By Sunday afternoon, I was sure I was unemployed and homeless. Of course, when I went back to work on Monday, I didn’t lose my job, and I set things right with the client. Now fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I attended a networking event, botched my introduction and then forgot to make new connections! Another mistake, but this time I applied the lesson to my next networking event, gave a good introduction and met several new people. I didn’t beat myself up about the mistake, and I was able to learn from it and perform better, faster. That’s what happens when you avoid the sabotage loop.

Many of us, consciously or unconsciously, strive for perfection, and when we don’t achieve it, mercilessly criticize ourselves. But that leaves us in the sabotage loop: focusing on the past and not getting anything done in the present. And when we do this in front of our team members, we create an atmosphere of blaming and inaction. In the years since I gave that client incorrect information, I’ve learned a few things that help me stay out of the sabotage loop.

• First, watch your language! Notice what you’re saying to yourself: would you say that to a friend? If not, stop right now! You deserve the same respect you would give to your friend. Putting yourself down only makes you feel worse, and keeps you in a state of inaction.

• Next, recognize that you can’t change or un-do the past. But you can learn from it. You probably made your decision or took your action based on the knowledge you had at that time. Now that you have more information, what can you do now?

• And finally, know that the only thing you can control is your own actions in the present, and that will help you influence the future. Apply the lessons you’ve learned, and deal with what you have now, not what you wish you had or should have had. And while you’re at it, banish “should have” from your vocabulary!

Since I’ve learned to focus my attention and energy on acting now and learning from my past mistakes, I find I’m more resilient and even better prepared for the future.