I am a reformed perfectionist. In my previous life, the worst, most dreaded result, whether personally or professionally, was a mistake. I would double check EVERYTHING multiple times to avoid mistakes. I would create elaborate backup plans in case of change. What was the result? I was anxious 75% of the time and really angry the other 25%. Sure, all of my CDs were alphabetically organized, but I couldn’t sleep because I was so wound up all the time.
And I would make really big mistakes while trying to avoid small ones. Like the time I forgot to secure a travel visa for my hubby to go into Ghana, the first stop on a four-stop photo safari. Without the visa, he would be kept in a holding area (IN GHANA) until they could arrange for a plane out. I fixed it, and we’re still married. The point is that I spent so much energy trying to avoid little mistakes and be perfect, that the anxiety resulted in BIG mistakes that affected more than just me.
Then I found life coaching, and I realized that mistakes were normal—anxiety was the enemy for a happy life.
Mistakes happen because we are humans living a life of constantly changing circumstances. We can do one thing one way today, and that same exact method won't work the following week—because something has shifted. Given that premise, it makes doing things right versus making a mistake not quite so black and white.
What is right and wrong? Can’t the same action be right or wrong depending upon the circumstances? If that’s true, then what is a mistake but a lesson in something not to do exactly like that again? The challenge is avoiding the shame game that wastes time and energy; instead, find the lesson in the mistake.
Because the mistake isn't the most important thing. It's our reaction to it that's really interesting.
After years of making mistakes, I found there are two choices when responding to a mistake, 1) Rant, rave and tear out your hair for being so stupid OR, 2) You can accept responsibility, forgive yourself, and move forward. Discover what lesson you learned so as not to repeat THAT mistake again. Here's how this played out in my life last week.
850 Elite had volleyball camps in the morning, where I was Ms. Susie Cream Cheese, the cheery check-in gal. I love this job, because I can put new girls at ease. They see a slightly wacky, friendly face when they first walk in the door, so they can stop being quite so scared. They realize this might actually be fun! Since I had to leave my house 45 minutes earlier than normal, my morning routine changed. I missed my meditation one day and then forgot to do it later in the day. This doesn't seem like a big deal EXCEPT that I was on day 159 of daily meditation working toward my 180-day badge on Headspace…WTF? I just blew a 159-day streak of awesome meditation! How could I be so stupid and careless to ignore my own self-care in the middle of self-care week for fig’s sake? See, this is what Option #1 looks like—icky, right? I gave myself five minutes of venting time, and then I moved onto Option #2.
It was a busy week. I was distracted by a new routine, and I’m a flipping human (sorry about all the faux cussing; I tend to cuss when I’m mad—a habit taught to me by my dear mother). It’s not like meditation is really supposed to be goal oriented anyway. It’s just my old need to win at everything, including mindfulness, which is NOT a contest, dude!
So, I began again with a new plan: when there is a schedule change, put meditation first. Right after letting out the dog and making coffee – and before anything else. It's a better plan than wandering my house puttering before meditation. It also adds a new twist to puttering, since meditation creates an intentional feel to the puttering. I may never have learned this without making this mistake! And that's what Option #2 feels like—so much better!
Choosing Option #2 turns a mistake into a growth opportunity. Neat trick, right?
Try it for yourself this week, when you make a mistake, forgive yourself ASAP, and then write it on the board at GPS. Proclaim your choice of kindness toward yourself and notice how different that choice feels! Then when that sinks in, try forgiving someone else for their mistakes—chances are, they’re human, too.
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