It’s a big mistake to continue to carry around a big mistake.
You are going to have some bad days. You will experience occasional mistakes, mishaps and missed opportunities. Your success will not depend on IF those mistakes are going to happen. Your success will be determined by how you respond to mistakes WHEN they occur.
Last week I spent 4 days at two different sporting events with my two oldest daughters. Although they performed in two different sports, their competitions (track and field with my oldest, Sofia and swimming with my second daughter, Kristina) were surprisingly similar. Both competitions were contested over two days over an hour away from our home. During both of the events, my daughters faced the combined pressure of competition, self-imposed high standards and a packed schedule. Since my oldest competed in the heptathlon, she participated in 7 different events. Since my swimmer competed in different distances for all 4 strokes, she participated in 8 different events.
After a similar amount of work, they also had similar results. After two days on the track, my oldest set 5 personal bests and my second daughter swam to 6 personal bests in the pool. Although I could write about the new records, this email is not about remembering what happened after they experienced success. As you will read, this email is actually about forgetting what happened after they experienced setbacks!
Setbacks and mistakes are not just reserved for the sports field. Errors and letdowns happen to us in both sport and daily life. Whether it is on the court or in the courtroom, a mistake or bad performance can lead to a mental breakdown that could lead to future bad performance. If you have felt some “negative momentum” lately or find yourself “dwelling” on the past, the routine below can help you out of a slump. Before I share my 5-step process how to move on past your mistakes, I want to share one of my favorite zen stories:
An older monk and a younger monk were traveling together. At one point, they came upon a river with a strong current. As the monks prepared to cross the river, they saw a woman also preparing to cross. The young woman, doubting her ability, asked if they could help her cross to the other side.
The two monks glanced at one another. Because they had taken vows never to touch a woman, it was obvious they could not help her.
Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman on his shoulders, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and began walking again.
The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened! After crossing the raging river and rejoining his companion, he was both speechless and angered, and an hour passed without a word between them.
Two more hours passed and finally the younger monk could no longer contain himself and blurted out, “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman! How could you carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I put her down once we got to the other side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”
Just like I mentioned at the start of this email, the story reminds you carrying around your past can hold you back in the present. Why the attraction to the story is so simple is because we all know “letting things go” is so difficult. Our short term memory of our own mistakes often serves us the best. This inability to forget recent errors can also make our next performance the worst. That is why I have worked on helping my daughters (and myself) develop a routine to create what I call “mistake amnesia.”
Most people might want to improve his or her memory. Of course remembering people’s names or where you left your car keys is important, but when it concerns making mistakes, it is also an important skill to occasionally be good at forgetting. In order for my daughters to move on past their mistakes this weekend, they had to temporarily forget about them. The following is a 5-step process that can help you regain your control and composure by clearing your mind, reseting yourself and moving on after a mistake has happened.
5-C’s To Develop Mistake Amnesia
1. Concede It
If you make a mistake, recognize it happened. A simple nod of the head to acknowledge the mistake gives you more control than throwing a tantrum. Admitting the error also gives you power to discover ways to overcome it at a later time.
2. Contain It
Once you have admitted an error has happened, set a time for how long you will allow yourself to be affected by it (a few seconds to a minute). This again gives you control over the mistake, not the reverse.
3. Calm It
After the time to analyze the mistake is up, regain your composure by taking three to five deep breaths. By focusing on breathing in through the nose while expanding the abdomen and out through the mouth, you won’t be focused on your original mistake.
4. Chuck It
Now that it is contained and your are calm, you can “throw away” the mistake. Create a symbolic movement or word that helps you “erase” the mistake. (It could be the movement of throwing the mistake in the garbage or simply saying “delete.”)
5. Change It
Finally with the mistake in the trash, you are able to move your attention to the present and set up for the next thing. By using this routine to remove the focus from the mistake, you are best able to be attentive to the next thing coming.
At the start of each of my daughter’s second days of competition, they both performed less than expected. They could have let that hold them back, but instead of letting a past mistake disrupt their present performance, they “let it go” and “shook it off.” To finish the days that each started poorly, Sofia won the event while shaving 16 seconds off her 800 meter and Kristina shaved 9 seconds off her 50 meter butterfly. Those 25 seconds of improvement don’t happen if they had spent more time worried about “what happened?” than being more focused on “what’s next.”
Made a mistake? Fuhgeddaboudit!