Written by: Valerie Hazelrig
We all do it!
Whenever I made a mistake – from the smallest driving boob to burning down my kitchen during a lobster flambéing accident, I used to beat myself up about it until I was black and blue in the mind. None of us like making mistakes, but they are an inevitable part of life, and we are all guaranteed to make one every so often.
It took me a long time to realise that mistakes are an important part of self-improvement, learning from mistakes can actually propel you forward through life on a much clearer, safer and sensible path. For instance, I now make a mean flambé, and I know precisely how much brandy to put in the pan, and how much to put in my glass.
But if that hamster of regret keeps spinning round on the wheel inside your head, and you find yourself stressed and depressed about past mistakes, then perhaps it’s time to go a little easier on yourself. And here are a few hints on how to do just that.And one mistake you may always regret is the skipping of this article, so ignore it at your peril.
Apologise sincerely with dignity
If you’ve made a mistake that hurt somebody else, then be sure to offer a dignified apology. Apologise in person, rather than through a text, Facebook message or email. If you don’t apologise, the other person will be less likely to forgive you. Also, know when to quit – don’t apologise over and over again, because this can become irritating. That single, honest apology can go a long way towards restoring trust.
Avoid the same mistakes
If you’re always turning up late for dinner, burning the toast, or getting caught gossiping, then it’s time to re-evaluate your bad habits. If you keep on making the same mistakes, it shows you’re not learning or making progress. Concentrate on breaking one bad habit at a time, over the spell of 30 days.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself, and don’t be too eager to blame others for your mistakes, either. For instance, when I burnt the kitchen down, my only mistake was to spill a small amount of brandy on to the cooker hob. If this had been baked bean juice, the accident would never have happened. It was a tiny incident, but it had large consequences.
Analyse your feelings
For instance, if you’re feeling distressed, incompetent, or embarrassed about a setback, maybe you set your bar of success too high. In this case, you may have to lower your sights somewhat. This technique goes a long way to restoring your bruised self-esteem.
No, I don’t mean re-framing that tatty picture on the wall – re-framing is psychology jargon for viewing your problems in a different light. This is very clever, because it can change your body’s response to stress, and that’s because your stress response can be triggered by ‘perceived’ stress, not actual events themselves. So, if you’re stressing yourself out, then that fight-or-flight response will kick in, and you will feel appropriately anxious. So, stop thinking of your mistakes as failures – accept them for what they were, and use them as an opportunity to learn. By doing this, you can glean valuable information that you can use for future successes. Anxiety-be-gone.
Dealing with complex mistakes
These kind of mistakes have complicated origins, and there is no obvious or easy way to avoid them next time. For instance, a failed relationship with a heartbreaking outcome could be seen as a complex mistake, or causing a road accident. Carefully analyse the entire timeline of events, so you can see all contributing factors, and learn all possible lessons. If it was a contentious situation, you may need to get eye-witnesses to collaborate, so you can see the event from as many angles as possible.
Laugh at yourself
Restoring faith in yourself can be difficult, especially if you’ve made a serious mistake that affects others. It’s natural to question your abilities, but you must get past these doubts. So, pay close attention to the past, rehearse for future situations, and plunge headlong back into the game. And the best way to do this is by laughing at yourself – after all, you laugh at your friends’ mistakes, so why shouldn’t you laugh at your own?
Finally, you can’t change your mistakes, but you can choose how you respond to them, and how to avoid them in future. It takes a bit of practice and mental reconditioning, but it’s well worth it for a clean conscience, peace of mind, and a heavenly lobster flambé.