All of us make mistakes. What we do after will affect how much that mistake will affect us. The first thing we should do after making a mistake is own up to it. When you deny making any mistakes you actually separate yourself from others. When you own your failures as well as your successes you give yourself a lot more control. So we have got to the point of admitting that you are the one who made the mistake. What is the next logical step?
The next thing to do is to begin to put forth the effort to fix the mistake. If this mistake involves another person a good idea is to offer a heart felt apology. Let me pause for just a minute here to make a very important point. Saying your sorry is not the end of your job here. In fact, it is a very good beginning. I wrote a blog post quite some time ago called ‘A broken plate’. You are welcome to go back and read it, but for the sake of time I will give you the theme in a nutshell. There was a gentleman who kept hurting peoples feelings, apologized but did not change his actions. Eventually a wise teacher explained to him what was wrong by breaking a plate. He told the man to say he was sorry to the plate. He then asked if that did anything to put the plate back together. The man said “Of course not”. Which brings us to our next point.
Offering an explanation for your actions without making an excuse can help clear up any confusion in the future. Again, explaining why you broke the plate will also do little to put it back together. You must take actions to do so. In the plate example the man glued the plate back together. The teacher noted even though the plate was now back in one piece it was no longer the same. This can hold true of our mistakes. By taking actions to correct them, we can put things back together but we must understand there might be lingering issues. To this let me add one thing. I have read about a tradition of gluing broken pottery together using gold glue. That way the cracks then become something of beauty. In many ways this can be true of mistakes. When we own up to them, sincerely apologize, take action to correct them and work with the other parties involved to come up with a plan to avoid them in the future we can actually improve our relationships and grow closer.
Here is one other positive on making mistakes. It never feels good to say that you are the one who messed up, but know there are very few opportunities equal to this one to show the strength of your character as well as your dedication to making things right. Mistakes are one of the greatest opportunities we have for growth. We must take advantage of that. So next time you mess up, do not just say sorry and walk away. Think of what you can do to fix the damage and what you can do to avoid the same mistake in the future. Then you have just turned a mistake into a lesson.