Think of a day when you were going about your usual business and then you make a mistake and boom, you feel awful, you’re not sure what happened and/or you certainly didn’t mean to cause any problems for anyone, let alone yourself. We all make mistakes, they can be tiny ones such as putting salt in a recipe instead of sugar or catastrophic ones that cause a company to collapse. Those are extremes, I know. Usually the mistakes we make are in between and we think there impact is bigger than it actually is.
Have you ever made a mistake or two at work and dreaded your boss finding out? Then when you spoke with them, they were understanding and helped you see where you went wrong and how to avoid the same error in the future. Everyone has and will make mistakes, this is how we learn, create new ideas, products, solutions.
Whilst your mistake may have been genuine, it can cause us to feel anxious, shame and dread the next time we come across a similar situation.
Depending on the error and how serious it is, will depend on how you react. If it is something silly you may laugh but if it is huge, you may cry. We’ve all done both!
For example, last year at work, I was ordering a long service gift, which was to be engraved. I was ordering online and at the checkout, it asked for the engraving details. Thankfully it came up with the last engraving details we did, so I only had to update the name. Then an error occurred and I had to do it all again. This time I was rushing and forgot to update the name and when I got the dispatch notification email, I realised it was wrong. I was mortified, called the company and they were fine with creating another and just sending the wrong one back, luckily without charge. At that point I could laugh, as it was really funny…it could have cost a lot of money had they not been so kind.
Now, I know it wasn’t a life or death situation, but in that moment, my heart plunged as I may have potentially cost the company hundreds of pounds. But in the moment we make the mistake or we realise we’ve made that error, we can feel overwhelmed with worry, fear, dread & despair. We freeze for a moment before our brain kicks in and we figure out a plan. Can we fix it ourselves? Do we need to ask for help to undo our error or is it too late and it’s done? If it’s a work error, at what point do you let your manager know?
Here are some ideas of what you should do when you make a mistake:
Owning up to your mistakes and taking responsibility for them from the outset can help you to move on from them rather than have the constant fear of being found out. You only need to watch a TV drama or a soap opera to realise that hiding your mistakes, errors in judgment, moments of weakness will all be found out sooner or later, regardless of how well you try to keep them hidden.
Breathe and take time! Take a moment, don’t panic. Look at the situation and work out a plan when you have a calm head. Panicking your way to rectify it could cause more issues. If you’ve caused someone pain, give them time to be on their own and process what you’ve said.
The majority of the time you aren’t making mistakes. Focus on all the good work you have done or the good friend you have been. No-one is perfect, everyone has flaws and mistakes are part of what makes us learn, grow and move on.
Don’t dwell on the mistake. No matter how awful you feel, it isn’t going to help you, if you spend the next week, month or years going over and over the mistake in your head wishing you had done x instead of y, or if only…. this isn’t healthy. Do what you need, to get it out of your mind and to help you move on. This could be where you get on your bike and cycling it out of your system or pound those pavements with a run to clear your head. Maybe you call a friend and chat to them about it.
What have you learnt? It could be as simple as slowing down and checking what you are doing. Or asking for help rather than powering on when you don’t have a clue. Do you need to communicate more with your partner, perhaps the mistake was just a misunderstanding? Maybe the learn is about being honest with yourself that it’s ok not to be perfect.
Don’t feel bad for making a genuine mistake, these things happen and it’s what we do next that is important. So the next time, you mess up, look to the above tips, focus on what you can do to move forward and be kind to yourself. The world is all about learning and you are human afterall.
Have a great week, be kind to yourself and look after you.
Love Emma xx