Three positive steps for dealing with your mistakes

Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears. Marcus Aurelius (received from The Happiness Project)

The secret of success is to let the negative feelings out, in other words, do not suppress your negative feelings. A true positive attitude is to have positive expectations and deal with your negative feelings when they arise.

If you make a mistake, do you get busy with the excuse or busy with the learning? Arnie Skelton at

These three pieces of wisdom arrived in my inbox today and got me thinking about handling negative feelings, especially those arising from our mistakes.

Nobody likes making mistakes.  They lead to a whole gamut of unpleasant emotions ranging from embarrassment to inferiority, anger to agony, shame to stupidity.  Our pride takes a pounding, our self-confidence is squashed and our self-belief shattered.  It’s little wonder that we go on the defensive, making excuses and shifting the blame.  It’s a form of self-protection, enabling us to emerge from the situation with our ego intact.  However, by denying our error and expending our energy on excuses and blame, we are focusing on the negative.  Mistakes are a fact of life and they will happen no matter how much we strive for perfection, so how can we transform the negative into a positive?

I suggest taking these three steps:

  1. Acknowledge your mistake to yourself and others, apologising where necessary, then stop there.  Take responsibility for it and avoid the temptation to make excuses or apportion blame.  Hopefully others will admire and respect you for your honesty and confidence.
  2. Ask yourself why the mistake happened but don’t agonise and over-analyse.  Was it because you were lazy, cutting corners, unprepared, made a misjudgement, didn’t ask for help or information, ignored warning signs, interfered or allowed emotions to get the better of you?
  3. Ask yourself what you can learn from your mistake.  What will you do differently in the future to avoid making the same mistake again?  Use the mistake to create a positive experience by learning from it.

For example, hubby and daughter sometimes clash.  They lock horns, start screaming at each other, go on the attack.  What do I do?  I join in, trying to mediate but instead getting angry and shouting to be heard.  This is a mistake because instead of calming the situation, it escalates it, making resolution impossible.  Why do I do it?  Paradoxically, I want harmony but I go about it in the wrong way.  I blame them both for being inflexible, for making me intervene.

My approach is a mistake.  I am allowing my negative emotions of anger and frustration to take control of the situation.  I need to respond differently.

Last night, a situation was brewing.  I could feel the anger rising in me, I acknowledged its presence but I stopped myself from joining in.  I sat silently whilst they had their ‘exchange’, resisting the temptation to intervene.  Eventually I left the room and, not long after, they stopped.  I wasn’t wound up and angry, I hadn’t added fuel to the fire and so it hadn’t been long until it burnt out.  I felt calm and proud of my self-control.  Instead of my daughter storming out of the room and slamming doors, leaving hubby and I in a slanging match of blame, harmony was restored.

Interestingly, they both approached me later to tell me calmly their views on the situation.  Now is the time for me to act as mediator.

So, mistakes are great.  Without them, we can’t learn and grow.

What mistake have you learnt from?


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5 Responses to Three positive steps for dealing with your mistakes

  1. Marianne says:

    Thank you for reblogging my post, it makes me very happy! 🙂 I’m taking your question about mistake with me, and will think about it tonight.

  2. Pingback: Moving Forward | Cindy Ortiz – Leap Like a Frog

  3. Have you ever thought of writing a self-help book (or maybe you have)? I really enjoy reading your posts – this one in particular is an excellent reminder ‘not’ to intervene and aggrevate a situation (which I’ve done many a time). Thank you.

  4. Reblogged this on Sandra Madeira and commented:
    Fantastic post by Marina – worth a read!

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