How to get over mistakes

Are you very hard on yourself? Do you spend your nights sleepless, thinking about all the “stupid” things you’ve done?

I feel you because that’s me. I wish there were a magic wand that waves our mistakes away, but there is no such panacea. Time helps, but telling you this sounds like a useless platitude because, seriously, who knows how much time it’ll take?

Here are some perspectives that might, though.

A missed take

Reframing mistakes as “missed takes” was something I learnt from a lecturer, now a cherished friend, during my schooling days. When you film a video or take a picture, you might need multiple tries before snapping something you’re comfortable posting or keeping.

Why, then, wouldn’t you stumble a bit before becoming better at project management or presentations, or picking up a new skill, or becoming a better person? It takes a few tries to get somewhere good. There’s also a reason our grandparents or elders can give us sage advice: they have had many more “missed takes” than we have.

Train your mind to autocorrect “mistake” to “missed take”. You can improve, no matter how big the issue or problem is! It’s a “missed take”, an opportunity to learn and be better the next round.

Look Toward the Future

Did you know that Mark Manson, the author of the bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, has a blog with great posts? He shares thoughts worth mulling over in one titled “How to Fix Your Life”.

This book

  1. Shame is “past-obsessed”, and we can redirect our energy to becoming “future-obsessed”.
  2. It’s impossible to ruin your life.
  3. Sometimes, what we think cannot be fixed shouldn’t be focused on; we can divert our attention to building something new or improving something else. These breakthroughs improve our lives and mental well-being.

Check out his post on this and his other posts too! They’re great food for thought and have helped me snap out of my worry and frustrations. When I get deep into my mistakes, I pull a post or two to reread. It helps.

So What?

Sometimes, the only way to convince yourself the mistake is not the end of you is to ask yourself “so what”. Keep asking yourself this until you can’t. This helps you think logically and not ruminate.

Example: You messed up a slide in your presentation and ended up with an awkward silence

> So what?

> My professionalism is down the drain, and I am embarrassed.

> So what?

> I will probably lose marks, and my lecturer thinks I suck (which is probably overthinking).

> So what?

> I will have to work super hard for my finals or the next assignment.

> Is it something of huge consequence? Can I make things better?

> Yes.

> Then why dwell on it too much?

If you’ve done your work diligently and this is the first “major” mistake you’ve made, it won’t erase all the good work you’ve done so far. Don’t sweat over it too much. The same goes for wearing your shirt inside out. In the grand scheme of things, these are tiny. Will you remember you did these in five years? I think not.

Will others remember these things in five years? Highly improbable: everyone has a lot on their minds to remember. Stewing over the mistake makes it bigger than it really is. If need be, distract yourself with something nice. Let yourself think about it, but let it go after.

Sleep on it

Literally and figuratively. Dwelling on your mistakes tires you out physically and mentally.

Not getting enough rest short-circuits your brain and prevents you from thinking well and processing things properly. Sleep on the issue, and when you wake up in the morning, you will feel well-rested and ready to tackle your concerns properly.

One of my favourite sayings I’ve been working hard to internalise is this: The sun will rise, and tomorrow we will try again”. Tomorrow is a new day, and there is always a new beginning. Do not live in the past until you cannot see the many chances to try again! You will have many days to work hard, so do not fret too much.

Get some quality rest or naps, if need be, and sleep your problems away temporarily. Then get up the next day and get ready to conquer!

I hope you feel a little more encouraged after reading this article. Let’s work hard to let our “missed takes” go and become the best and happier people we can be!

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