May 15, 2009
What To Do After You Make A Crushing Mistake
We all make some of the same mistakes over and over again. Some of them are costly. And the costlier the mistake, the more likely we are to want to get angry at ourselves for making it … and then avoid thinking about it ever again (until we repeat it, of course).
This is natural. Costly, crushing mistakes are emotional poison to us, and we instinctively want to do anything possible to stop thinking about it.
What You Should Do Immediately, While The Wound Is Still Fresh
Once the mistake is made, do what comes naturally. Yell. Stomp your feet. Kick your chair if you have to – do whatever it takes to push that first bit of tension away (as long as it’s not truly destructive of course).
But make it finite.
Tell yourself you’ll let yourself be pissed as hell for exactly sixty seconds, then you will have to rein it in for a while. Count the sixty if you have to, or just look at the clock. (It doesn’t have to be sixty – just make it short, and don’t guilt-trip yourself for feeling sad, or angry, or whatever. Just meet the feeling, acknowledge it, and vent a little to take the edge off.)
Then work on the antidote, now – in writing.
No, you can’t fix a crushing mistake immediately. But what you can do is learn the lesson, right now, and turn it into something positive for the future. If you’ve totally fucked something up, write down why you did it, what you need to do differently next time, and how you can make yourself do it differently next time.
Yeah, that last part is the hard one. Maybe you don’t know how. But you can come up with something. Something as a start. And starting is the important thing. Because if you can keep “how to maybe stop doing this” in your radar, rather than avoiding the feeling, maybe things will start changing.
Take that paper you’ve written on, and take it out once a day and look at it. Do it the same time each day so you don’t forget it (At breakfast? After lunch? While brushing your teeth?) and don’t pretend the problem isn’t there.
Acknowledge it. It’s poisoning your life.
Use that paper as the antidote. Rewrite it if necessary, as often as necessary. But keep it on your daily radar so you can work on it.
Quit hiding from the problem, and maybe it’ll stop popping out and surprising you so often.
Quick fix? No. But it’s a start.