How to Recover from a Mistake

Credit to Modcloth.comEver noticed that you are quicker to forgive others for mistakes than you are to move past your own missteps? The fact is, we all make mistakes. I have repeatedly told those offering me an apology that the day I am perfect is the day I will expect them to be. That makes them totally safe. It’s also well known that my favorite word in the English language is “grace”, so I count on receiving it and giving it liberally.

Nevertheless, when I screw up – I tend to beat myself up unmercifully. In catching myself doing this recently, I had to review the rules for recovering from a mistake. If you don’t deal with your mistake in a healthy way, it can grow into a bigger, darker sense of regret that overshadows self-confidence and hinders productivity.

Recent research shows that allowing yourself to feel the sting of failure is not a bad thing. A study in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making indicates if you allow yourself to feel the pain of mistakes, you are more likely to use them to make forward progress. If you remain detached and only process your error on a cognitive level, you are less likely to leverage the experience and learn from it.

The key is processing the mistake and moving forward. Leadership requires quick recovery. Otherwise, disappointment becomes delay and leads to further distraction by fixating on the negative. Here are five steps that will help you bounce forward.

How to Recover from a Mistake

1. Take ownership. Blame produces powerlessness. It takes courage to admit a mistake. Doing so enables you to  shift into problem-solving mode as you look for ways to rectify the situation.

2. Apologize. Humility involves being courteous and respectful of others. Usually, our mistakes affect other people and it is wise to say, “I’m sorry”.

3. Learn from the mistake. Consider what can be done to prevent the mistake from happening again. Recognize the pain it caused. This provides motivation for self-improvement. James Joyce said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery”.

4. Keep it in perspective. I often ask myself, “Five years from now, how important will this mistake be?” Granted, there are some doozies that can still have an impact years down the road. But those aren’t the typical mistakes most of us wrestle with.

5. Forgive yourself and move on. That’s part of resiliency. People aren’t perfect. Life goes on.

Dwelling on mistakes and allowing regret to loom over your productivity is a sure way to undermine your own strength.  Leaders are not exempt from making mistakes. They are likely to make plenty since they are out there doing new things consistently.  Learning how to recover from mistake will serve you well.  The only thing that will keep you stuck in lost possibilities is the refusal to focus on new ones.

*Credit to for the quote art

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