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How to Bounce Back from a Mistake

Updated: Aug 27, 2023




Mistakes happen. Unfortunately none of us are perfect, so we can't avoid them. We are afraid of our own mistakes. This fear takes ownership and our lives begin to look derelict rather than cultivated through intentional effort.


It is kind of the sad story of an un-lived life. There are lines, paragraphs, and pages filled with chances we didn’t take, people we did not allow ourselves to love, and significant time wrestling with meaninglessness. All of this because we are afraid of what might happen if we mess up.


Mistakes, however, are still inevitable. We will mess up despite our efforts to protect ourselves by sitting life out. How about instead of forfeiting life, we create a game plan of how we will bounce back from our mistakes instead? We do not want our failures to be the defining moments of our lives, but with this kind of a plan, they do not have to.


We will mess up despite our efforts to protect ourselves by sitting life out. How about instead of forfeiting life, we create a game plan of how we will bounce back from our mistakes instead?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when bouncing back from a mistake:


1. Take 100% ownership


When we do not take ownership for our mistakes it’s for one of three reasons.


First, we feel embarrassed about our mistakes and don’t want to admit them. There will sometimes be things you will not know how to do and decisions you will make that will impact others negatively. However, give yourself grace. Friend, you cannot possibly know everything. No one gets through life without impacting others negatively at least sometimes. Despite the embarrassment we feel, it is still worth it to own our decisions. All the decisions we do not take ownership for leave us completely dis-empowered. However, when you take ownership and play an active, engaged role in overcoming it, then you still have a voice and a say in how your life will turn out. Be an influencer in your own life.


All the decisions we do not take ownership for leave us completely dis-empowered. However, when you take ownership and play an active, engaged role in overcoming it, then you still have a voice and a say in how your life will turn out. Be an influencer in your own life.

Second, sometimes we do not fully agree with the mistake being addressed. In this circumstance, I find that there is still something we can still take ownership for, even if it is just miscommunication.


During times like this, I find it helpful to say things like, "I see how ______ could come off that way to you. I am sorry I did not communicate better about it. In the future, how would you prefer me to handle ______?"


In this case the problem really isn't the mistake itself , but rather our different personality types and communication styles. This way of resolving an issue leaves us with a better understanding of others, which promotes closeness and respect within the relationship.


The third reason we do not want to take ownership for our mistakes is we feel totally overwhelmed, dis-empowered, and have a victim mentality. We feel like we could never bounce back from our mistake because of its enormity. The mistake may feel like a long, dark tunnel, but the only way through is personal responsibility. Without it, you might as well sit down in the tunnel and stay there.


I like to think about complicated circumstances like tangled necklaces. If you have ever had thin-chained necklaces tangled up, upon first glance, it is easy to wonder how they will ever be there own distinct necklace again. However, these big balls of mess get untangled all the time, one chain at a time. Likewise, walking in personal responsibility one step at a time can untangle your life. Sometimes you do not get the life you want, but, in this case you still have a life. If you let yourself enjoy it, you will see that it is a good one at that


Walking in personal responsibility one step at a time can untangle your life.

We all know people who "sit down in the tunnel". They are the people who are bitter about how life happened to them. I do not want to dismiss that truly terrible things do happen to people, but there is nothing more inspiring than when they take back their lives and create a joyful future despite their painful past.


You must never lose your right to choice, and that is what ownership is all about. It gives you choices and options - that hiding, blame, and giving up will never give you.


You must never lose your right to choice, and that is what ownership is all about. It gives you choices and options - that hiding, blame, and giving up will never give you.

2. Be nondramatic about it


When I say dramatic, I don't mean some charismatic reaction. Rather, what I do mean is our tendency to beat ourselves up about mistakes to the point it is a bit superfluous. Sometimes this tendency is fueled by the belief that, we not sorry enough until we have felt bad enough.


Showing empathy is essential when our mistakes hurt other people. In some sense, this can feel like "suffering with" or feeling bad but the distinction is, it only remains healthy when it is focused on the pain of those impacted. We can become a martyr because of the heavy guilt we heap upon ourselves. In times like these, we can totally lose sight of and empathy for the other person because we have tunnel-vision on our own pain inflicted by our inner-critic.


Another tendency to be vigilant of is when our guilt is disproportionate to our mistakes. At times, the mistake is small but the guilt we feel is substantial.


Be vigilant of when our guilt is disproportionate to our mistakes. At times, the mistake is small but the guilt we feel is substantial.

Being dramatic prevents us from bouncing back from our mistakes well because the guilt and shame caused by a hyperactive inner-critic defeats our confidence, lessens our clarity of thought, and crushes our creativity. All of these are needed to actually have an appropriate solution for our mistake. More times than not, other people want us to fix our mistakes, not feel bad about them. When we focus on the guilt and shame, it is like someone wants help with a math problem, and we whip out a history book. They are not solving the same problem. It is unrelated. Being dramatic can create a problem, the guilt and shame, so that we do not have to focus on the real problem, that is, overcoming the mistake.


3. Learn from it


Unlike the ineffectiveness of an over indulgent inner-critic, what is effective is learning from our mistakes. It goes a long way with others when we tell them how we intend to handle correcting our mistakes and what we will do differently in the future. When someone brings up a mistake, their primary goal is to see us change. A new behavior is truly the purpose anyone shares a mistake with us in the first place.


Another added benefit in sharing this kind of information is it demonstrates our resilience, problem-solving skills, and our dedication to personal responsibility. Everyone makes mistakes but not everyone is resilient, good problem-solvers, nor do they always take personal responsibility. Overcoming our mistakes in front of others can demonstrate more admirable qualities we have.


Additionally, as not fun as mistakes can be, I have found that I always develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of certain topics and skills than I ever would have if I never made one.


As not fun as mistakes can be, I have found that I always develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of certain topics and skills than I ever would have if I never made one.

Mistakes do not have to be something we are afraid of. They are part of living and part of growing. This kind of game-plan is the exact thing we need to bounce back from mistakes well. I wonder what kind of things we could accomplish if we were not so inhibited by our fear of mistakes. I hope this game-plan gives you the confidence and tools to find out.



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