Welcome to Monday, a day most people dread. The work week is ahead of us and as many people fear, the opportunity to make mistakes. Personally, I don’t mind making mistakes. There are three wonderful, yes I said wonderful, things that come from mistakes.
First, like the picture said they are proof you are trying. There is no way to live a mistake free life. Sure, you could sit around and not do anything, but then you don’t live at all and in my mind that is the biggest mistake. We might misjudge, need to improve physically, mentally or emotionally. There are a million reasons why we might make mistakes. Maybe we just didn’t have all the information needed to make the correct decision or take the correct action.
Not only is it proof we are trying, but it is an opportunity to learn. When we make mistakes we often think to ourselves such disempowering things as, “I can’t believe I did that!” or “I was so stupid for making that mistake!” What if you replaced those statements with ones such as, “Next time I know how I will do that!” or “I am so glad I learned how to do this. I will be better next time!” It is a totally different mindset. Mistakes are some of the best teachers.
The third thing I think is wonderful about mistakes is that is provides us a unique opportunity to show our character. Owning up to mistakes and not letting them get you down shows that you have a strong character. You cannot display this unless you do make a mistake. Through showing what kind of character you have you can earn respect from others. Everyone loves and respects someone who owns up to their mistakes, don’t they?
From now on let us put mistakes to work for us. It sucks when they happen, but we can turn them from a negative to a positive using the three examples above.
The phrase above translates to “my fault”. Last post we mentioned how even the most ‘enlightened’ or ‘self-evolved’ of us can trip up and do things we know we shouldn’t do. When this happens, when you don’t live up to your own standards it can be one of the worst feelings. Not only have you often hurt or let someone else down, but you have done so by doing something that is out of character. As a fabulous bonus, you can also come across as looking like someone who says one thing and does another. In short, a hypocrite.
So this has all been very inspiring hasn’t it? So you have done great on your goal for so long. You have not smoked, you have controlled your anger, you have been more positive, whatever your goal is. Then you slip up. You have a cigarette on a stressful day,or you blow up when someone seems to push just the right buttons. Maybe you find yourself in a very negative and depressed state? In the past because I worked so hard on being the best I can be, and trying to set a good example for others i would beat myself up for days when i let myself down. Being an author and motivational speaker it is also bad for business. Do you know what is worse, however? Not moving on. If you wish to continue to work on your goal of bring a non smoker,or whatever it might be, you do not want to begin again with a feeling a failure.
So what do you do? Take a step back, catch your breath and confidently say “I screwed up”. Trust me it is quite liberating. If you spend all of your time trying to come up with reasons or justification for your actions you can quite often look like someone who can’t admit they’re wrong at best, or drive yourself insane at the worst. Just own your temporary moment of insanity and strengthen your resolve to do better. Find a better way to deal with stress than lighting up. Try to be more compassionate when someone pushes your buttons. Saying “it’s my fault” not only frees you from spending wasted time trying to excuse your bad behaviour, but also shows you have the character to admit your wrong. Now just focus on making things right!
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.
I speak with people often on a variety of subjects. Sometimes people ask me about living a more positive and rewarding life. On occasion people ask me about my relationship and how they can also have a fabulous one. I also hear from people after my seminars and people who have read my book A Happy Life for Busy People here is something I hear a lot, “Neil I have tried to achieve this goal, but it didn’t work” I then asked them how many different things they have tried. Usually they look at me slightly confused and give me an answer ranging from one to three. I then share with them a fact I find truly amazing. Edison had tried over 10,000 different items to make a filament for a light bulb. When asked if he was upset by failing so many times he replied “I just learned 10,000 ways to not make a light bulb” I am not sure to many of us would try 10,000 times to make the perfect cake or a tasty dinner.
When trying to promote my book or seminars I often think of this story. How much further would we be set back if Edison had given up? How much longer would we be without the light bulb? You may say “well that’s not me, I couldn’t do that”. I am hear to tell you that you used to do it. What do I mean by that? Let me ask you this, how may times as a baby did you fall before you learned to walk? Did you give up and say “this walking thing might not be for me” You see all of us begin life with a determination to succeed at our goals. If we didn’t there would be a lot of adults out there crawling around.
So how do we develop a determination to match Edison? I believe the answer is two-fold. First, develop a strong enough why. If the reason to succeed is important enough to you the how will be found. Second, remember if you as a baby didn’t give up, why would the adult. Is it because we have learned to accept failure? Is it because it is easier to give up? Perhaps we are just not as focused on what we stand to gain by our success or lose by our giving up.
I am going to leave you with one thought and a quote to take away from this. The biggest area I hear this in is relationships. People tell me they tried to make their partners happy or bring the passion back to their relationship, but it just ‘didn’t work’. I always ask, how many things did they try? Think of how important your goal is, what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. Think of all you didn’t give up on when you were young. Reading, writing, learning your language. How would your life be different if you had just tried once we these things? Remember if you find yourself giving up, even determination is something you have to be determined to succeed at.
Here is the quote I promised you. It comes from the famous baseball player Babe Ruth
“You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up”