It’s difficult for me to put mistakes into perspective. Rather than becoming smaller and smaller in life’s rear view mirror, for me they tend to loom large on the horizon, ever-present in the present and awaiting in the future. It’s so easy to internalize failure; then get stuck; then stay stuck. I think I’ve been stuck for awhile now because I’ve concentrated on the mistakes themselves, but gave no thought to how to fix them or how to forget them.
Mistakes aren’t Mistakes When you Make Them
We only say something is a mistake when a situation didn’t go as planned or as anticipated. The course of action taken at the time the “mistake” was made, was executed in good faith; we did what we did because we made a choice that seemed reasonable or right. In other words, it’s only in hindsight that we second guess our actions. Second guessing encourages us to play the “what if” game. (While extremely entertaining, it is also extremely unproductive).
Enough is Enough
When I replay the mistakes, decisions and/or events that lead me to where I am now, I start worrying about the future. All sorts of interesting things begin to happen: I start to feel out of control; negativity sets in; I envision myself as a bag lady. Whatever I have in this moment is enough for now – a place to live, freelancing opportunities, friends and family.
Don’t Allow Failure to Define You
To internalize a mistake ensures that you stay stuck in the past. Admitting that a mistake was made, noting what you learned from it and then moving on is the best way to prevent a mistake from keeping you emotionally in one place or from defining you.
The thing I’ve found most useful is controlling negative thoughts to help maintain a positive attitude. I remind myself that mistakes are rough drafts – it’s easier to put them into perspective when I look at them as “practice” rather than “failures.”