so, you made a mistake. now what?

Mistakes happen. We say something unintentionally that offends someone, fall short on a task or expectation, overlook a process or procedure that causes an outcome to be different and so forth. But no one wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I’ll make some mistakes today.”

As a perfectionist, I loathe mistakes. Especially when made by me.  I know they are inevitable and am acutely aware that I do not walk on water and therefore, am going to make mistakes at some point in my life. This however, does not make the frustrations any better when they occur. So, why do we tend to take our mistakes personally and view them as character flaws?

I recently had a situation in my business where an error was made. Of course, it was unintentional and somewhere along the line of production from start to finish protocol slipped and the error manifested. It was brought to my attention by the person it most affected. She used words like, “mad,” “disappointed,” and “unprofessional,” and questioned the experience of myself and my staff. Nothing I could do seemed to console her or change her overall mood.

Although I had no idea at the time how the error occurred, empathetic and apologetic, I repeatedly offered to remedy the blunder and do whatever in my power to correct the situation and make it right. The continuous rebuttal led me to believe the efforts were insufficient, and I was left unsure of what was expected of me as the one in charge.

See, I took her words and the overall mistake personally and viewed them as a reflection of my individual character. No one likes to disappoint and in business one certainly does not want to hear the word unprofessional.

But, after days of being distraught, it finally occurred to me. People are human. We will make mistakes. What we take away from those mistakes is where the power lies. In my recollection I reiterated that I approached the situation with compassion and remorse, offered to remedy the error and although this person continually reprimanded me and made me feel substandard for the error, I embraced the fact that I also gained some wisdom and insight.

I learned several things from this situation. First, I remembered that I am human and am going to fall short both personally and professionally and that is ok. In my latest book, Rise up, Aim High, Stand Tall and be Outstanding, I have an entire chapter devoted to accepting failure. In fact, I begin the chapter with a quote from NBA champion Michael Jordon as he explains all the moments he has failed and how it is those mistakes that have made him a success. Second, I learned that I approached the situation with tact, and compassion and treated my client as I would have wanted had the roles been reversed. I have since, brainstormed ways to prevent this type of mistake from happening in the future. But more than all those wonderful nuggets, I discovered that just because I made a mistake does not mean I am a mistake. Simply because someone states that an action was unprofessional does not mean I cannot act professionally or that I do not run a professional business. I realized a mistake should be viewed as a teacher, not an attacker.

Girl, it’s time to focus on the sparkle. So, you made a mistake. Now what?

I encourage you to take your mistakes, chew on them for a bit, learn from them and then forget them. But remember the lesson. Utilize the power of the mistake to turn you into something better than you were. Do not allow a need to be created in which you replay the situation over and over. Do not let it take you hostage or dwell on what could have, should have, would have. Mistakes are inevitable, but they are also a detour, not a dead end. Simply examine what you learned. Fix what you are able. Release it and move on. You are more than the mistakes you’ve made. Don’t let them define who you are.

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