How to recover from your mistakes

Feb 15, 2023 | Insights

Your mistakes are your greatest asset when you are defined by how you recover, and not by submitting to fear and shame.
“How did you recover from your mistakes?” I was asked this question by one of my audience at a careers talk to students in their penultimate year at a local College last week.

The question arose from the stories of my mistakes, which I used to illustrate a critical lesson: we all make mistakes, but not dealing with our mistakes is the greatest mistake of all. My audience rightly wanted more details of how I recovered, especially when the shame and hurt I felt at those early mistakes made me want to hide.

I told my audience how I had learnt to ask for help but how the process was made more accessible by coming into contact with the right people. These people asked, listened and gave advice without being judgemental.

To this end, I was fortunate that I met the right people. Of course, it could have been a coincidence, but on reflection, I suspect that, unconsciously, I was seeking help, and my quest for compassion and assistance led me to this group rather than vice versa.

Recovery patterns

There is a pattern to our mistakes and their recovery, which I have begun to appreciate with time. Of course, I continue to make mistakes, although less severe than in my youth. However, the recovery sequence is always the same, albeit quicker.

Something happens. You make a poor decision, misjudge something or do something crazy. Often you break a rule, not necessarily a constitutional or corporate law, but an unwritten convention. You find yourself on the receiving end of criticism at best and a life-changing experience at worst.

In this maelstrom of conflicting emotions, everything seems to be against you, and you cannot see a way out. However, your recovery begins when you curate a list of everything true, including the nature of your mistake.

Essential honesty helps mend mistakes.

Being honest with yourself is essential to deal with your mistakes and ensures you enter a learning process that leads to a positive outcome. If you don’t, your mistakes will define you; to put it more positively, this is a beautiful opportunity to be defined by how you recover from your mistakes.

You might seek help, as I did, or you might seek reconciliation for any hurt you have caused. Both are essential recovery steps, which need the courage to master the shame and anger preventing you from facing the world.

The final part of your recovery is to learn the lessons of your mistake and to apply them in a way that enables you to make a positive difference to those around you, which is why, if handled well, your mistakes are your greatest asset.


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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