Embracing Mistakes

Nobody likes to make mistakes. Especially in situations where you feel like you should know better. Like the time you blurted out how an officemate wasn’t pulling his weight and your boss wasn’t exactly thrilled with the way you delivered your message. Or maybe you’ve made even bigger mistakes than that. Like that time right after you got invited to the C-Level that you…

… found yourself being more focused on impressing everyone in the room rather than listening for what there was to learn.

… left a meeting and were unable to count how many times you interrupted the CEO, CFO, or present.

… chose to cover up your faulty forecasting rather than disclose incorrect predictions.

Or maybe you dismissed a direct report without hearing out her ideas because you thought for sure you knew what she was going to say.

Or maybe you didn’t take a stand and insist that the organization go after a key positioning opportunity because you were afraid your colleagues and bosses would disagree or wouldn’t hear you.

Or maybe you found yourself totally unsatisfied in your career and kept at it because you thought it would get better or make you rich or give you power.

I know. I’ve been in that situation. I remember sitting on an airplane headed for a work-related event in New York. I felt totally unsatisfied and found myself wondering why I shouldn’t just get off the plane, quit my job, and pursue the dream I’d been avoiding for years.

Everyone’s mistakes look different and unique and yet they also share one common thread. A mistake feels like a mistake.


Whether the action you took was truly a mistake or not, the point is, it felt like one at the time. You knew with every bone in your body you were selling out, or not being true to yourself, or maybe you simply weren’t aware of why it was a mistake at all. You certainly weren’t choosing that course of action because it left you empowered and self-assured. You knew something was off, yet you did it anyway.

If making the mistake wasn’t bad enough, you then kept rehashing your mistake, ad nauseum. You know, pay your dues, be humble, suffer the consequences and shame as payment for your sin. Why? Because atonement requires suffering and service. Everybody knows that, don’t they?

Maybe all that seems too heavy for the kind of minor mistakes we blunder through every day. The “I forgot to feed the dog,” kind of mistake and the “I forgot to call my brother on his birthday,” kind of mistake. So how can we learn to accept our mistakes and move on? Is there a way to learn the lesson that doesn’t leave you for years in purgatory trying to prove to God, your mother, and most of all you that you have a right to be on the planet? How can we reframe the mistake so that even now, when you are painfully aware of all your imperfections, you can still take responsibility for the wake that was created by the mistake and still connect with your ability to live a satisfyingly rich and fulfilling life? Good question, eh?

An important point to make here is that reconciling your mistakes isn’t about making you feel better or helping you justify your actions. In fact, this isn’t about judging your actions at all. This process is more a question of how to take responsibility so that we make better choices next time. When I say “better,” I mean in the context of what is better for you and the world you live in.

"You trust in yourself to make the choice that serves your core values and your purpose."

Trusting your mistakes means recognizing that whatever you said or did served up a dish of awareness that helped you get to whatever was next. Trusting your mistakes means you welcome the lesson and release the guilt. Trusting means you have awakened a part of you that was asleep in the moment or driven by an unnamed need. Trusting means that you really won’t do that which does not serve. Ever. Again. And you commit to doing whatever is necessary to clean up the mess. You trust in yourself to make the choice that serves your core values and your purpose. At the same time, you also trust you are a part of a much larger whole and everything you ever say or do ripples out far beyond what you can ever see or know.

The law of cause and effect still operates and every action you take creates a field in which everything is now changed but the action you took. That’s awesome, isn’t it? The question is, what are you causing with your actions? What are you trusting? Are you trusting that you will make a choice in alignment with what matters to you or not? Or are you just afraid you’ll make the same mistake over again?

I would choose the former, if I had a choice.

And I say I do.

And you do, too!

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