If you’ve lived long enough to be able to read this, chances are that you’ve made some mistakes in life- some of us more than others. One thing is sure though, none of us can claim to be squeaky clean, 100%. Yes we may be all ‘fresh’ and ‘posh’ at the moment, but truth be told, we all blow it sometimes. That’s normal. That’s life.
My goal today is to quickly share with you, some ideas I’ve picked up and practiced that have given me a firm grip on dealing with my mess ups quickly, completely, and above all, sincerely. So read along and I do hope you find one or two of these ideas helpful in your personal life. Alright then. How can you quickly snap back from a slip up and get back to your winning self?
1. When you’ve made a mistake, face it for what it is.
That means no blaming, shaming or naming. What makes us maturing adults (I never like to say ‘matured’ cos we’re never quite there just yet) is our ability to admit when we go wrong and stand up to take responsibility for our action or inaction.
Shifting blames and placing faults robs us of power and weakens our emotional intelligence. Sure, an evasive attitude may provide temporary relief or make us look ‘not-so-bad-afterall’, but in the long run, it’s really childish and makes us smaller persons inside.
2. Find out why- there’s always a trigger.
An African proverb says when a child falls, he immediately gets up and starts running again, but when an adult falls, he (should) pause and look around to find what caused the fall. Probably you just exploded in an irrational outburst; and said things you never thought were inside you all along, how do you deal with that? Before you run along and brush it aside as ‘one of those things’ or ‘I didn’t mean it, that was just the anger talking’, be calm enough to track back what led to the fit of rage. Was it a product of accumulated frustrations? Was there something someone said that caused you to ‘spark’? find out. There’s always a cause. If you don’t deal with it, it’s just a matter of time- it WILL happen again; and most likely, it’ll get uglier the next time.
3. Apologise- and be sincere about it.
There’s been this age-long debate about the renowned inability of the average African man to apologise- especially to the other gender; but I think that’s changing. Today, more and more guys are finding it easier to go on their knees to prove their ‘repentance’ (though I must add that the sincerity behind the bent knee is a topic for another post). Today though, I’m talking about apologies irrespective of gender.
Sometimes, a quick apology is NOT always the best way to go. Simmer down a bit. Spend some time in recovery and process the situation. Be empathetic and try to look at things from the other person’s perspective. This will take some time and mental effort, but it pays off because your apology, when tendered will be filled with thoughtfulness and genuine remorse.
A caveat though: don’t wait too long to apologise. That just makes things more messy. As a rule of thumb, heed the bible’s advice about not letting the sun go down on your anger.
4. Forgive yourself- and move on.
It’s ironic but true- sometimes, we are the last person to let go of what we’ve done. Sometimes (I don’t always know why, but it’s happened to me too), we just find it so hard to really forgive ourselves and just move on.
I’ll tell you one thing though from personal experience- it gets easier with practice. When those images of your mistakes come playing again in your head, don’t try to fight them- you’ll only reinforce their power, don’t deny them either. Mentally look them in the face and tell yourself, yes it’s true, I made that mistake, I’m not proud of it and I probably wish I had acted better. But I AM better now, I know better and I’ve moved on.
Like I said, it won’t be so easy the first time you try this, it may even feel like you’re lying to yourself, but keep at it. That’s called cognitive dissonance- where your mouth disagrees with your mind. The adjustment will occur; and pretty soon, you’ll be on your way to living the truly guilt-free life.
5. Share the lessons from your mistakes- selectively though
We learn more when we teach. Human struggles are rarely isolated cases. When you come across someone who’s making the same mistakes you made in the past, share your story to help them get over it. We all respect the personal stories because they give a human touch to otherwise abstract principles. There’s also an upside for you when you do this- it reinforces the changes you’ve made and the lessons learned. This process of reaffirmation makes it less likely that you’ll fall back into the same old mistakes.
However, balance is key- don’t go spilling your guts everywhere. Apply discretion and only share your stuff when it is relevant and only to receptive folks.
Alright, there you have it, my short list of what I’ve picked up and practiced in my journey to becoming the best me possible. I’m still in the process though; I’ll always be. But the journey gets more beautiful with each new phase of growth and wisdom. I’d love to hear your views. What other strategies have worked for you? Let’s keep this going as we enrich one another’s lives with simple, yet powerful and usable tips for a truly awesome life.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to your comments.