Do you ever make stupid mistakes that make you wish you had an undo button for your life? Things that make you cringe when you realize what you did? You can't believe you hurt someone that way. You look back and say, Why didn't I stop and think? What made me do that?
I've made a big whopper, just in the last few days. I hate to admit it, I knew better, but I just didn't stop to think about the consequences of my actions. Going too fast, trying to get too much done. More later. But there are really no excuses, and I believe there are no mistakes.
No mistakes? How can I possibly say this? Yes, we hurt people, we cause them suffering and pain, we add to their burden, and sometimes we can have a negative impact on a person's life. Maybe that's not true for you, but it sure is for me along with many, many people I've met over the years. Nope -- no mistakes. Just more chances to handle them right, learn from them, and make up for them.
So think of a mistake you've made lately. Perhaps you:
- Teased a friend and ended up hurting their feelings
- Did something you promised you wouldn't do
- Didn't do something you promised you would do
- Didn't take the time to do things right
- Lost your temper with a loved one and said things you regret
How Not to Handle Mistakes
Here are some from my playbook:
- Have a drink or go get something to eat
- Cry and beg for forgiveness just to make yourself feel better
- Convince yourself there was nothing wrong with what you did
- Defend yourself -- you're right after all
- Get angry at the person you hurt -- make it their fault
- Go quiet and act like a victim of the one you hurt
- Maybe even concoct an internal story about how bad they are
A fine teacher named Lama Pema teaches us: "Fear is the barrier between where I am
and where I could be."
The only thing between your true self and your current behavior, mistakes, or regrets is fear.
To be your best self, wake up to each moment. If you feel victimized, criticized unfairly, feel you have to do something in retaliation -- whatever it is that causes you to make mistakes -- just feel the fear, move through it, get in touch with your own natural wisdom, and do the right thing.
As Susan Jeffers once said, feel the fear and do it anyway.
How to handle mistakes
Here's what I've learned -- or am doing my best to learn:
- Listen to your inner wisdom
- Admit to your mistake
- Accept the fact that you've done something that didn't work
- Figure out what you're going to do about it -- and do it
For me, the lesson to avoid making mistakes is simple:
Slow down and think!
It's not about how much I get done. It's about how aware, kind, thoughtful, and thorough I am about what I do. And if I don't, there's nothing to do but learn from it. There's nothing to do but set it right. There's nothing to do but become stronger in our determination to become the person we know ourselves to be, the one we want to be.
If I'd done that at my mother-in-law's memorial, I would have pulled out the letter I had written to her last year and read it to everyone. Instead my pride let me "wing it" with my remarks. Some of the things I said, and more importantly some of the things I forgot to say, hurt my husband deeply. I'm so ashamed. Just imagine how different the results would have been if I'd just followed this simple guideline?
How to put them right
- Swallow your pride and think about what you need to say to the person or the people you've hurt
- Connect with them and let them know how sorry you are
- If it's a big one, get in touch with your remorse and share it in as authentic a way as you possibly can
Please take the time to consider these points as a way to become a more compassionate and kinder person -- for me it's an endless job and the most important one of all.
I invite you to leave a comment below or write to me: email@example.com. I'd love to hear about what you've learned about handling mistakes and putting things right.