What were some big mistakes you made when you were five? You know you made a good amount of them, but do you remember them?
No you don’t, do you?
When you were five you were an expert at mistakes. Not only did you make them all the time, you learned what you could from them, and kept right on with the process of experimenting, learning and growing. Most of us had a time or two (or 30) when we broke something in the house just from being careless, touched a hot stove and got burned, or jumped off the couch and bumped our head. We never decided back then that we were bad people because of our mistakes and didn’t deserve to play. Our motto back then? Play on!
But you probably remember your mistakes back in high school, and maybe a couple from middle school. So what changes between being 5 and 15 that makes us handle mistakes differently? Well, developmentally there is more awareness of our impact and our responsibility in the external world. And sure, our memory is probably better. But the biggest factor is this: as adults we hold on to mistakes for dear life and make it mean something about who we are. As kids, we didn’t.
So here are 3 steps for handling mistakes that can help us feel as free as a five year old!
Step 1: How can you take responsibility, be accountable, and remedy what you can?
When you first realize you’ve made a mistake, own it. Your first instinct may be to find any way to make it go away. But hey, you’re only human and we ALL make mistakes. Acknowledge that instinct, and then stand up to it. Be brave. Apologize to anyone it impacted, and take action to remedy the situation. Not all mistakes can be “fixed,” but minimize any negative impact to the best of your ability. The faster you own up to it the more chance you have to change what occurred, and gain respect for your honesty.
Step 2: What can I do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
Replace the question “what’s wrong with me?” with “what went wrong?” If you missed an appointment, switch over to an electronic calendar with alarms. After you take accountability, take action. What systems can you put in place so it doesn’t happen again? Use it as an opportunity to learn and grow, just like you did when you were 5.
Step 3: Let it GO.
Let it go. If you notice you’re attaching meaning to this mistake about who you are or what you are worth, let it go again. If you notice you’re holding on to it, let it go again. It may take a couple tries, a couple days, or even a couple weeks. Keep letting it go. Until it’s gone.
Final step? Get on living life! Make more mistakes! Keep on experimenting, learning and growing! Be as awesome as a five year old! And of course, PLAY ON!
How do you handle mistakes? Please comment below with any experiences or ideas on how we can keep experimenting, learning and growing without all the judgment.