Everyone makes mistakes. It is part of being human. Sometime they are simple, small and relatively inconsequential. Other times they are big and fairly monumental. We make them when we are young, and despite the acquired wisdom of age, we make them when we are old. Regardless, your mistakes do not define who you are; how you react to them does.
Some people let the weight of their errors drag them down. They can not see past them, can’t seem to forgive themselves and move on. They relive them, and feel the guilt like an anchor holding them in port, unable to sail on. You don’t want to be one of these people. Their reaction to a mistake compounds the error. If you have made a misstep, whether it be on the job or with your family, the best thing to do is to own it, try to learn from it, and then let it go.
Own it. If an apology is appropriate, then apologize. Don’t try to hide it, pretend it didn’t happen or pass the buck to someone else. If you lost an account because you forgot to write the meeting into your schedule, just own up to the fact that your screwed up. There are few people if approached sincerely who will not forgive a truly contrite person. And to be honest, those who won’t are probably not people you want to be around anyway.
Learn from it. It is cliche, but it is true: everyone makes mistakes, just don’t make the same one twice. Every time we make a misstep there is an opportunity to learn something, to become a better person tomorrow than we were today. To stick with our example from above, maybe now you realize that your fancy scheduling and note taking app on your phone looks great, but is too awkward to really use on a day-to-day basis. In order to not miss any future meetings you need to go back to pen and paper. If your apology is coupled with a lesson learned and a plan not to repeat the error, most people will see that as an overall positive.
Let it go. I know, I’m singing it in my head now too– but it’s true. If we hold on to every time we make a mistake it is going to be a lead weight around our necks. Life is too short to do that to yourself, and besides, rehashing the event over and over doesn’t lead to anything positive. It just makes you feel lousy. If you have owned it, and learned something from it, there is nothing left for that error of judgement to do. It can only be a negative at this point, so just let it go and move on.
Remember, you mistakes will never define you, but your reactions to them will. Own them, learn from them and then let them go. You’ll be a better co-worker, family member and human being for the effort.