Are you living your life with regret? Haunted by the mistakes you made in the past and unable to move on? Tried to do something and failed at it, and now, you’re scared of attempting to start again? Did you make decisions that you found were wrong for you, and you’re embarrassed by those decisions, and what people might or are saying?
You are not alone. A lot of people are in a similar position. They’ve made mistakes in the past, and their mistakes are costing them their lives. They are trapped by those mistakes, and they’re unable to move on.
Why do we make mistakes?
Sometimes, we make mistakes because we didn’t know. Sometimes like a small child (and every one of us has a small child within them) we jump into what seems like an opportunity or like a good thing to do which will yield great results. But because we do not have experience, we jump into it wholeheartedly. Only when we’re in do we realise we’ve made a big mistake, but by that time, it’s already done. It’s too late and cannot be undone. At this point, all we feel is dumb.
Sometimes we make mistakes because we think we know. Sometimes we just know too much. We may think that we have all the knowledge, all the experience, have done it before, know all the caution points – and with this well of ‘knowledge and experience’, we plunge, yet again, very deeply and quickly into the opportunity. And only once we’re in it, we realise we’ve made a big mistake.
Sometimes we make mistakes because we don’t listen – to ourselves, our voice of reason, and to the advice of others. We are stubborn. We know it all. After all, who can tell us anything? Here I’m talking about that inner voice inside us that ‘warns’ us of the potential mistake, that gut feeling we feel deep down in our belly that tries to prevent us from making the mistake. We ignore our gut. We ignore the advice of well-meaning individuals. We do it anyway. And we fall flat on our face.
Sometimes we make mistakes because we are overly cautious. At this point, we have the experience, we know how painful it is to make a mistake, and we don’t want to repeat it. We don’t want to feel dumb. Because we don’t want to make the mistake, we pay too much attention to not making the mistake, and we end up making it anyway.
We’re dumb. We’re stupid. Blame. Guilt. Regret. We become trapped and unable to move forward, let alone live. We become ‘dead men walking’.
Is this where you are? Are you letting your mistakes define your life right now? You can do something about it.
So, how do you get yourself out of the trap?
Recognise that you are human
Human beings are by nature imperfect and tend to make mistakes, some more than others. Depending on the individual, some will make really dumb mistakes; some will make simple mistakes; some will make complex mistakes; and some will make regretful ones. But you need to recognise that you are human and you are allowed to make mistakes, at least responsible mistakes that you can learn from. So, if you have made a mistake, learn to forgive yourself. Tell yourself that you are human. That is the first step.
Take ownership of your mistakes
Denial is the biggest impediment to moving away from the trap. Taking responsibility for your mistakes is the key to determining if you can untrap yourself from your mistakes. You can only learn from a mistake after you’ve admitted you’ve made it. The minute you apportion your mistakes to others (family, friends, employer, community, the government – the list is endless) or the environment (the world, the universe, your circumstances), you are denying yourself the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. So, take full responsibility. Admit your mistakes..
Learn from your mistakes
You need to go through the emotions of your mistakes: feel the hurt, the disappointment, the regret. But only for a limited time. Do not focus on the mistakes and why you made them. That’s not going to change the situation but will perpetuate the same cycle of blame, regret, entrapment. Rather, focus on the future. Instead of asking yourself ‘Why did I do that?’, ask yourself ‘What could I have done better?’ Do serious introspection, a self-assessment, and ask yourself ‘What can I learn from my mistakes?’ Ask yourself some more: ‘What can I learn from my mistakes, and what shouldn’t I do in the future?’ Identify what changes you need to make to your behaviour and focus on those.
Although sometimes advice is required from those close to you, and even though some may be well meaning, always take it with a pinch of salt. A lot of people pretend to be well meaning when they actually aren’t. Some people may try to pull you down. Some may give you advice because they want to mould you into what they want you to be. Trust yourself. Trust your own intuition, and trust that the decisions you make about your life will benefit you, and only you. Do not believe anything people say about you, especially if it’s negative. What they say is not you and should not define you. However, be grateful and acknowledge those that are supportive of you, encourage you, and want the best for you. Stand tall. Trust that you will become a better person, that in fact, you are a better person.
The sooner you realise that you cannot change what had happened, the quicker you will move on. If you focus on why you made the mistake, you run the risk of remaining where you are and trapped. If you do move on, you will lack trust – of yourself, of those around you. You carry the emotional pain with you into any venture you embark on, be it a new business, a new relationship, a new job – if you do embark at all. Do recognise that the mistake will have made you a new person, and that person will have grown, become a better person, a better human being. So, stand up, brush yourself off, and move on.
My challenge to you? While you are blaming yourself, feeling guilty because of your mistakes, life is passing you by. Isn’t it time you let go and start creating a positive future? Live your life. Live in the moment.
‘The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.’ Elbert Hubbard