Recovering from a Mistake

October 2, 2015

There is no doubt that we are our own worst critics. When we make a mistake, it can take years for us to forgive ourselves for it.

When we make a bad decision, the consequences echo in our heads for a long time. We often struggle to let it go, move on and, most of all, forgive ourselves. On the other hand, the good decisions we make are the ones we forget the fastest.

Why does the human brain work this way? Maybe because society teaches us from a young age that mistakes have a price or that good decisions are what is expected from us.

However, we also learn from our bad decisions. Learn what? First of all, to not make the same mistake again or to notice the negative consequences we’ve caused.

Take this example:

An employee arrives at his boss’s office and asks him: “How did you become successful?”

The boss answers: “Thanks to good decisions.”

Not happy with that answer, the employee asks again: “How did you make the right decisions?”

“Thanks to experience,” says the employer.

Trying not to seem pushy, the employee asks: “And how did you manage to acquire that experience?”

To which the boss replies: “Through bad decisions”.

What is this story trying to say? Well basically, that if we don’t make wrong decisions, it’s very hard to make right ones.

We can all make mistakes or think something is good when it’s really not. But we have a choice in what we do with these mistakes. What this means is we can decide to keep going, remembering what we did wrong so as to not do it again. Or we can let that mistake follow us for the rest of our lives and not allow us to move forward.

It’s crucial to remember that, bad decisions are a part of our learning process as we make our way through life It’s up to us to accept them as learning opportunities and not as huge weights on our shoulders.

Once we have made a bad decision we have several choices in our response. We can regret it and change, regret it and not do anything to change it, forget about it about it, worry, berate ourselves about how wrong we were, etc.

Now, what’s the best position we can assume? Without a doubt, the same one as the boss in the story earlier. That is to say, use our bad decisions to learn and shape our future experiences. This undoubtedly leads to success.

It all seems easy enough in theory, but how do we apply it? First, it’s vital that we control the whirlwind of emotions we’re sure to feel, from anger to sadness, including indifference and depression.

Calming down is important. Reprimanding yourself all the time for having made a mistake won’t do any good. On the other hand, being clear on what you did wrong so you won’t do it again is the most useful thing you can do in these moments.

Something when we make bad decisions the voices in our heads won’t stop. We can’t concentrate on what we’re doing or even sleep at night. “Why did you do that?” “How could you behave that way?” “What would have happened if…?” That’s what we ask ourselves over and over again in our heads.

We shouldn’t let that inner conversation take over our lives, and above all, impact the next decisions we make.

Let’s stop punishing ourselves. We can’t turn back time, though sometimes we think that would be the perfect thing to do. The best thing to do in these moments is analyze how we can fix the damage caused and above all, how we can emerge unscathed from the situation.

That’s how we get to the third stage or step on the road to forgiving ourselves for our bad decisions. It’s necessary that we assess the extent of the damage caused by our mistake. To do this, we should keep as cool a head as possible, because any emotional unbalance could lead us to make new wrong decisions or not be able to accurately understand the consequences of our actions.

The last step is using the information from our mistake to inform future actions. It’s important to remember that “a bad decision is only bad if we don’t do anything about it and don’t learn anything from it”.