Five Steps to Move Past Mistakes

Photo by Estée Janssens
Originally published in Better You

Mistakes are so powerful. They can lead to destructive events of high magnitude such as a nuclear meltdown or to future altering inventions like penicillin. They are an essential part of our lives too, always with us waiting to happen. It can be scary. But a better understanding and a positive attitude towards them will help to move past mistakes and propel us to new edges of success in life. All you got to do is follow these five golden rules. Let’s get started.

1. Identifying the Mistake

If you are the kind of person who thinks ‘ I never made any mistakes’, then stop reading this right now and go back to whatever you were doing. Identifying that you made a mistake is the first step towards progress here. It will often bring us back to reality, away from the bubble of psychological biases which made us believe that we are perfect. Clarity is the always the essential first step towards success and same here too.

2. Taking Responsibility

“To err is human”, Alexander Pope noted. Taking responsibility instead of blaming it on anything and everything not just makes you feel human, but also let others to admire your character.

Every day we meet ‘that person’ who blames every mistake of their own to someone or something else around them. They failed the exam because the questions were tough, rather than seeing their mistake to prepare themselves for every possible questions. This explains why the majority people around us lives plain ordinary lives, unable to achieve great feats or make a mark in history.

In fact, if you ever read the biography of any great person, you will notice the numerous mentions of the mistakes they made in their lives and how they came across them. So take responsibility, you will definitely feel good about it.

3. Getting Past Regret

Regret is your biggest enemy here. It can kill you slowly, by eating up your self-belief bit by bit, day by day, only to leave a mere shadow of what you were once. Mistakes do not destroy someone’s lives (I am not taking about fatal mistakes), but the regret caused by the mistake often does. A missed penalty kick or a failed exam alone isn’t capable of destroying a life, but the regret, shame and guilt of losing a championship or a career might.

We find that most books on ‘making mistakes’ or ‘being wrong’ are often focused on regret. In fact worrying or regretting often about your mistakes can be costly. Not only it is a big waste of time, but also it will lead to a mental state, putting your mind in an infinite loop.

To get past regret, understand these words from author Kathryn Schulz’s must watch TED Talk, “regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly — it reminds us that we know we can do better”.

I mastered to overcome regret recently with a ‘Three Set Scenario’technique I developed. The main cause for regret is we only consider the best case scenario of what could have happened. Thinking about three different scenarios: the best case, the worst case and a realistic case; will provide you closure and ability to move on. Remember ‘Regret isn’t mark of failure, it’s a reminder to do better’

4. Learning from Mistakes

You have identified, took responsibility and moved past the regret of the mistake you made. Now you have to learn from it. Ask yourself questions such as ‘Why did you do that?’ or ‘Was there a way to prevent it?’ If your lack of knowledge was the reason, then acquire knowledge. If a particular emotional state such as fear or stress lead to it, then get to the bottom of it and fix it.

5. Never Repeat

Einstein once said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results”. Let me rephrase it, “insanity is repeating mistakes over and over expecting different result”. After vigorous learning and understanding how not to make a particular mistake, there are no more excuses for repeating it.

These are the five simple step for getting past mistakes. Understand them, implement them and most importantly forgive yourselves afterwards. If you feel your problems and mistakes are unique, a quick web search could prove you wrong. Find people who had taken the same path, and emulate their solutions. So let’s move past our mistake.