Learning is valuable, beating yourself up is not.
If you were like me — not the most cautious person in the world and makes careless mistakes from time to time, you know how it feels when the following happens:
How come I just spent the last half hour looking for glasses when they were sitting on my nose?
How come I forgot to bring the umbrella again and got caught in the rain 5 times in a row?
How come I made the same mistake again on a sales call?
The next thing you know? You might be beating yourself up and putting on all kinds of labels on yourself.
Consequences? You are adding a thick layer of bitter coating to the already tough-to-swallow pill.
A 3-Step Roadmap to Forgive Yourself
- Acknowledge and process the emotions
When you embrace negative emotions by feeling other than buffering, you choose acknowledgment over avoidance. You choose to look at the triggers in the eye.
2. Have a conversation with your inner-critic
Imagine you have a screaming toddler. Would you tell the baby to shut up, or talk to the baby? For the same reason, don’t try to shut up that voice immediately. Instead, try having a conversation with kindness and compassion.
You can write or speak out loud. The point is to see the inner critic, and have an open and honest conversation.
3. Quit playing the tape
Human brains are hardwired the replay the mistakes we made. After the conversation, it’s time to put it on hold and put it aside.
If you want it to be more ceremonial, write everything down on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. Or you can interrupt the process by engaging in another activity.
Approach Mistakes with Curiosity
After processing the emotions and forgiving yourself, take a constructive step forward to learn from your mistakes.
This step should only come after the last one, not before. Processing emotions first so you can observe the situation from a neutral place. When you can observe, assess, and evaluate as an outsider, you will gain valuable insight.
I like to approach it with curiosity, get to the bottom of every aspect to maximize my learning. For example, if I misread an email, I not only learn about my reading habits but also about how to write emails more effectively.
“Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift. And eventually, we find that lessons learned from that discouraging experience prove to be of great worth.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, and Grumblings for Every Day of the Year
Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will. — James Stephens
Get Moving Again
After forgiving yourself and learn from your mistakes, it’s time to get back on track and keep creating momentum.
Tackling a huge task on a bad day doesn’t sound like a good idea, but how about doing little things that’ll add value to your life? I’ve listed two of my favorite ways to get yourself back on track.
Tie loose ends
Do you have errands to run? Bills to pay? Laundry to do? Prescription to pick up? You get the idea.
When you are not having your best day, you can cheer yourself up by tying loose ends. Doing these things on a night like this is perfect, because they are essential, yet require a low energy level. They get you up and moving, make you feel more accomplished, and add value to your life.
If you’d like to take it a step further, add a purpose to these things to keep yourself motivated. Take my activities for example:
I picked up a prescription I almost forgot — for my health.
I bought a meal with “Too Good to Go” — supporting local business and fighting against food waste.
I submitted 10 pages of a script — finishing up what I set out to do
When you have a setback, when you feel frustrated, set out for some easy yet essential tasks. They will stop you from getting in negative downward spirals and give you a sense of achievement.
Try one new thing
Want to binge some Netflix? Go for it, but don’t just do it mindlessly — learn how they tell the stories.
Want to read something? Go for it, take it slowly though, so you can experience the words without any expectation to get something right away.
Want to cook? Go for it, try a new recipe, eat something you don’t usually eat, and give yourself a different experience.
Want to challenge yourself even more? How about getting on the program you purchased a few months ago, watch one more module, or catch up with just one exercise you didn’t get to do?
Since you start a positive experience from a place of “feeling down”, you can expect to feel even better with accomplishing a simple task. If you are willing to embrace the contrast, you are saying yes to a life that is bigger than what it used to be.
Having a bad day is not a bad thing, as it gives you a foundation to create an upward spiral — it’s already bad, so a little effort will make a huge difference.
The key is to forgive yourself and approach your mistakes with curiosity. Ask what you can learn from this experience and get yourself up and moving. Do some easy things that give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and try something new with no expectation.
Surprising benefits can arise even on what seems to be the worst day — after you forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and make a decision to move forward.
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