Have you ever been in that situation where you’ve made a mistake and it wasn’t a little one? Gotten really hot and uncomfortable about it and panicked your way into sleep? Maybe you kept imagining the worst-case scenario unfolding as a result? One thing's for sure, any mindfulness you ever practiced flew right out the window and all the mental gymnastics that ensued was enough to warrant just not knowing what to do with yourself!
There are little ones and bigger ones and whilst we’ve all lived to see another day, many of us find mistakes really hard to live with and can feel quite fearful of them and as a result, don't perform or interact as well as we can.
As a sensitive person, I've always struggled with the aftermath of mistakes but by taking a mindful approach to what's unfolding for me helps ease the fearfulness considerably.
We all try and avoid making them, but mistakes are inevitable. They’re part of everyday life and reality is, when we do tap into thinking mindfully; - seeing clearly and without judgement, we can understand that making mistakes doesn't make us wrong or bad people.
So here are 3 tips I’ve used as part of my mindful practice to help me when I’ve done it again!
Firstly, RECOGNISE that EVERYONE makes mistakes, we’re all imperfect – Doctors, nurses, teachers, parents, politicians, Leaders in all walks of life, wellbeing practitioners, mindfulness teachers and spiritual gurus. Failures are inevitable, however, they are REALLY important because without them, painful as they are, we can’t grow and learn. Every mistake is an opportunity to look at something within ourselves and learn. If we keep ourselves closed down to feeling the pain of it, we're more likely to blame out of defensiveness. So try to foster a little openness and in doing so, remind yourself it's okay to feel uncomfortable.
I try and pause, take a breath, exhale a slightly longer ‘out-breath’ and remind myself that:
a) Everyone is imperfect and makes mistakes and
b) Be curious as to what I can learn and how I might grow from this.
Secondly, Recognise that you’re no different to anyone else. ‘Everyone’ includes ‘you’. Making mistakes is a universal experience and everyone including you experiences the pain that results from it. We can practice listing or recalling our own top 10 biggest ones and in addition, consider what needs, wishes, and circumstances led to the decision that caused the mistake.
Thirdly – Forgiveness. No matter how hard the consequences, self-forgiveness is key to maintaining self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Being awake to how easy it is to be our own worst critic in moments like this instead of our own best friend is a practice that's essential for us. It takes time and needs a drip-feed approach. This is exactly what my online program of live classes teaches every week, but in the meantime, take some time to reflect on these 3 things:
- Most likely the decision was the right one at the time, based on the knowledge available.
- The mistake happened and the price has been paid.
- Mistakes are unavoidable.
Remember that dwelling on mistakes once we’ve taken the necessary time to reflect and lessons have been learned, serves no purpose and is ultimately damaging for us.
Very few of us are strangers to rumination, so mindfulness helps us to be more aware of when we’re getting drawn into the overthinking. Using mindfulness - the exercise of ‘being present’ with our immediate surroundings and sensations helps to ease and slow down a runaway mind. Notice the thoughts keep surfacing and return the attention to your present moment however many times, its a gentle yet firm practice, not a magic bullet. Be patient and consistent.
Go gently today, be kindly and feel well.