The Idea of Mistakes and 3 Ways to Let Them Go
Have you ever felt like you had an experience that just shouldn’t have happened? Perhaps you made the wrong decision in taking that finance role at the healthcare startup? Or maybe you made a mistake in hiring a particular member of your team? Or perhaps you made a terrible judgment in trusting your business partner?
We live in a world of perfectionism. We need to get things right. They need to be done exactly the way society, our friends, or even our loved ones prescribe. Anything outside of those parameters is a mistake.
A few months ago – I learnt something simple, yet extremely enlightening – in my coach training through iPEC. It’s a foundational principle that: you cannot make a mistake.
Wait – what!?
Exactly. That was my precise reaction.
When our trainer shared the principle, I could think of the thousands of mistakes that I have made. So – as you can imagine – it took a couple of months for me to embrace this principle.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I understood the essence of the principle – that in any given moment we make what we believe is the best possible choice given all we have in front of us. On a universal level, you acted exactly as you could given what you were facing.
This is hard to embrace for many of us – and that’s completely understandable and normal. From the crib, right up to adulthood, we are shown our imperfections – and all the things we should have done to avoid that mistake. In the media – every day –our leaders get blasted for the mistakes they’ve made. At work, our bosses, in no uncertain terms will point out all the things we’ve done wrong – and even with our children – it’s the same thing in the classroom.
A lot of this has to do with our mindset and how we do things. To see how your mindset might be shaping how you interpret this principle, check out a blog I did on the two kinds of mindset and how to develop one that is more growth oriented. Read here.
The thing about mistakes is that they keep up trapped and stuck in the past. We hold on to them out of fear and self-protection, and so, they continue to make decisions for us right now. They limit our potential. They blind us from opportunities right in front of our eyes. They keep us frustrated, stressed, and annoyed at ourselves and those around us.
They keep us trapped in the prison of the past.
So – what if it were true for you that you cannot make a mistake? Instead, that every choice you make gives you additional information. Information that you can learn and grow from. Information that guides you on how to move forward next. Just thinking of this makes me feel lighter already because I would no longer be attached to the outcome of what will happen.
Instead, you would have all the energy and mental clarity to focus on now, what’s in front of you. You would be free of worry, self-doubt, fear or the idea that you can only get it right or wrong. You would have the freedom to see things exactly as they are, instead of in black or white.
What would that really mean for you?
Have a big mistake that you are carrying around – and it feels hard to let go? Here are three tips that you can use to move past this:
Understand and Acknowledge why you made the choice you took
Think back to the moment you made that choice and reflect on what was going on in that moment. You will recognize under that circumstance you did what you felt was best. And that’s ok – congratulations. You played the game of life the best way you knew how to. Take 5 deep breaths and say release 5 times. If this is hard for you to do, imagine yourself as a 5-year-old when you made this decision – and look at this through the lens of a child.
Uncover the lesson
Go back to both the process and the outcome of the choice you made. Quiet your mind for a minute or two and then ask yourself: what did I learn about myself through process? What can I learn from the approach I took? What are some opportunities in this situation? If this is tough to do by yourself, then speak with a coach or someone whom you trust. Someone who can be completely objective.
Choose how you want to grow
That is right. You see the lesson, and perhaps, you understood the purpose of why things turn out the way they did. It’s time to decide how you want to use this new information to grow and become more of who you want to be. It does not have to be rocket science.
As I close this blog – a word of wisdom from my favorite author Maya Angelou comes to mind: stand up tall and realize who you, that you tower over your circumstances. Stand up straight. The fact is the past does not have to define you. You can choose to see your actions beyond mistake or not. You can choose to see everything that you do as a process of learning, growing and becoming.