How to Move on After Making a Mistake

One of our more accident-prone team members shares a little light-hearted (musical) advice on how to 'shake it off' and recognise 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'.

Regrets? I've Had a Few

But then again, too few to mention. The start of a new year is a good time to look back, assess triumphs, acknowledge mistakes and set goals for the year (or decade) ahead. Looking back, saying "I love you" at the end of a business call isn't all that bad is it, in the grand scheme of things? 

Maybe, deep down, I did love them, and just wanted to express this? At least I didn't lean into the issue and start ending all my calls this way. That's a rebranding I'm not ready for. But even the one slip up saw both Shame and Embarrassment coming to live in my house for a time, destroying any business credibility they could find there. And with that in mind, I offer you the same advice The Rolling Stones offered me: You Better Move On. 

Step 1: Everybody Hurts...Yes, Feel Awful - but Don't Overdo it 

Excluding sociopaths, the natural response to making a large mistake is a mixture of fear, stress and overwhelming embarrassment but don't allow yourself endless self-flagellation. Short of turning up at the wrong venue for your mum's funeral (that one will haunt me for a lifetime, trust me), this should last about 10-15 excruciating seconds. Use this time to check that the ground hasn't opened up to swallow you. After that, it should pass. Sometimes, for all sorts of reasons, it doesn't pass. Emotionally, we get stuck here. When this happens, abort! Get out and away from the situation - go for a run, with headphones on (if safe); talk to a friend; mow the lawn. Something, anything, to get away. Which brings me nicely to: 

Step 2: Oops I Did it Again... but Apply Some Perspective 

Ok, so your sister-in-law found you stuck, half-naked, in the most awkward yoga position (plow pose, before you ask). It's not the end of the world - although it felt like it at the time. So you accidently deleted a file, forgot to book a room for the meeting or left a huge typo in your report. Keep this in perspective. At absolute worst, it's a yellow card; it's not a straight red and a sending off. You may not be out of the woods yet, but at least you have the potential beginning of a great story to tell (If not me, I bet my sister-in-law dines out on that story every time I'm mentioned!) .

Step 3: Release Your Inner Disney and 'Let It Go' 

As with all things, there's going to be a consequence to your actions. And this is where you can be your own worst enemy - trapped in the cell of your own mind. Your dark side takes over, sending you to a state of agony and stressing you as much as it can (which, ironically, can cause future mistakes at a later date). In this instance, confront your own worse-case scenario head on, make peace with it and then - finally - move on. You'll quickly file that worse-case scenario under "Probably Won't Happen." 

Step 4: Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word - but Apologise for Real

This one really speaks for itself. Do it early and do it sincerely. Do NOT wait to get forced into doing this and definitely don't do the, "I really feel I should apologise" or "I'm sorry you feel I..." lines that the politicians go down. Sometimes - most times hopefully - it's enough. You 'fess up with no excuses. No long-winded explanations. Just owning it. No beating yourself up. 

Step 5: Can We Fix It? (Bob the Builder or not)...Yes You Can

Now the work begins to earn back the trust. Deliver on fixing it. And the best way? By constantly delivering good work your mild slip-up will soon be forgotten. The bottom line is this: one mistake does not define you or consign you to the scrapheap of work. Who remembers Akio Morita? His invention was a rice cooker and it was rubbish. He sold about 100 of them. And rightly so. They were rubbish. Akio apologised and went back to redesigning until he was happy with his product. Akio's company is called Sony. 

So, my point is this: we all mess up, we all fail. Reinvent yourself, move pass that mistake; you are not defined by one photograph. And of course, I love you! 

Bright Horizons Content Team