How to Constructively Deal With Mistakes

We all make mistakes, but how we handle correcting them is what matters most. The other day I accidentally left my copy of “The Untethered Soul” at my daughter’s house. I was hoping to finish reading it last week in order to write the review for this month’s TSJ bookclub. I was initially bummed and felt frustrated for a moment when I learned that I didn’t have my book with me. I hate making mistakes and I really don’t like to let other people down. Fortunately I’ve learned that it is pointless to allow negative emotions to linger in me for long, so I acknowledged the mistake and let it go. 

Sometimes mistakes put us in a vulnerable position.  Photo by Paul Garrett

Sometimes mistakes put us in a vulnerable position.  Photo by Paul Garrett

In the past I would have been angry and possibly embarrassed, but I’ve since learned that those lower emotions are just a waste of energy if there is nothing that I can do right away to correct my mistake. Moving quickly from awareness to acceptance and then into forgiveness helped me to let it go and make new plans. Forgiveness? Yes, it is very important to forgive yourself when you make mistakes. Think about it, if you are a driven person like me, then you are probably pretty hard on yourself. It’s good to be conscientious, but once again holding onto negative emotions will only bring you down and lead to more problems.

Our parents and our teachers had a major influence over us when we were growing up as kids. How they reacted to our mistakes had a big impact upon how we felt about ourselves and how we behaved. If you were ever yelled at, punished or shamed for making a mistake, then you know how horrible it feels. Making mistakes, however, is a natural part of life, for it is through our mistakes and failures that we often learn and grow the most. 

So why then do some parents punish and shame their kids for making mistakes? For many it’s because this is how they were treated by their parents when they were growing up. It’s one of those horrible things that gets passed from generation to generation until we finally wake up and say “enough!” Another person’s mistake can also trigger uncomfortable old emotions within us that we then project upon the person who made the mistake. What’s important anytime that we feel frustrated or angry is to pause and calmly consider the situation before responding to it. The same applies to how we treat ourselves when we mess up. This is especially important when we are responding to a mistake that was made by a child.  

Treat your children with respect when they make mistakes. Photo by Paul Garrett

Treat your children with respect when they make mistakes. Photo by Paul Garrett

5 Tips for Teaching Kids How to Handle Mistakes

1. Pause for a moment and remain calm when your child makes a mistake.

2. Use this moment as an opportunity to teach them how to not make the same mistake again.

3. If your child made a mess, ask them to help you clean it up. This teaches them how to be responsible.

4. Hesitate from being punitive with them. You may be as your wits end, but will yelling, spanking or sending them to their room doesn’t really solve the problem. Chances are that they already feel bad knowing that you are disappointed in them. If you start to lose your temper, pause, calm down, apologize and explain why you are angry.

5. Ask your child to tell you what they can do in the future to not make that same mistake. This creates awareness in your child and teaches them that it is safe to tell you the truth. Remember, your kids are learning how to behave in these situations by observing your actions.

Parent’s who punish and shame their kids, teach them that it's not safe to take risks and that it is also not safe to tell the truth. If you want your kids to learn and grow, then they have to have the courage to take risks from time to time. You also do not want your child to withdraw and avoid telling you the truth. An open and healthy relationship with your child is very important and it will server both of you very well during their high school years if peer pressure becomes an issue.

How we learned to deal with mistakes as children carries with us into our adult years. I once worked for a company where the president had a fiery temper. As a result, his executive team often held back important information knowing that he would yell at them if he was told the truth. As you can imagine, this lead to a lot of tension in my department and a lot of wasted energy as they plotted how to cover up and conceal mistakes. As the head of a company or a department, it is vital that your executives are encouraged and rewarded for telling you the truth. Yelling at them does not help whatsoever, instead it creates more problems.

How to Deal With Our Own Mistakes

We need to show up in our lives and take ownership over our actions. Accountability is super important. The sooner that we can own our mistakes and make up for them, the better, but we have to be willing to process and let go of the uncomfortable emotions that arise within us and move forward.

Sometimes our mistakes cause us deep grief. The key is to move through them and let go. Photo by Paul Garrett

Sometimes our mistakes cause us deep grief. The key is to move through them and let go. Photo by Paul Garrett

5 Tips for Dealing With Your Mistakes:

1. If you make an embarrassing mistake, live out your embarrassment as soon as it happens. By facing it immediately, you will get over it more quickly. If need be, you can make a joke about yourself to diffuse the tension and acknowledge that you messed up.

2. Be accountable and own your mistake. It only makes it worse to blame it on other people. If your mistake hurt others, apologize to them.

3. Release the uncomfortable emotional energy that you may feel such as shame and once again let it go. Letting go is very important for your health, your well being and how others will view         you. It also allows you to live in the present moment, by not dwelling on your past mistake.

 4. Learn from your mistake and fix it if you can. Shit happens and it is a part of life.

 5. Do your best not to repeat the same mistake.

We all make mistakes. Forgive yourself and others,  and learn from them. Photo by Paul Garrett

We all make mistakes. Forgive yourself and others,  and learn from them. Photo by Paul Garrett

5 Tips for Dealing With Mistakes Made by Others:

1. Remain calm once again and ask what happened with a desire to understand.

2. Just like with children, reframe from shaming the other person.

3. Help them to understand what happened and how not to repeat it without lecturing them.

4. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you would like to be treated under these circumstances. Being respectful and compassionate creates trust and respect.

5. In the case of a romantic partner, offer them comfort and encouragement.

Through awareness we begin to better understand ourselves, as well as others. As a result we are able to make the world a calmer and kinder place when it comes to dealing with mistakes. After all there is already enough pain and drama in this world. By accepting that mistakes are a part of life and by finding value in the lessons that they teach us, we are able to grow toward becoming the greatest versions of ourselves. This in turn creates a more compassionate and loving world.

Wishing you peace and kindness,


P.S. - We have some great topics coming up on Total Soulful Journey and new announcements, too. Sign up for our free newsletter to be informed. Also be sure to hit the “Likes” button below if you found this article to be useful. Libby has written a super important article about parenting for this coming Saturday, and I will be reviewing “The Untethered Soul” for our TSJ bookclub next Tuesday. Have a great week!!

Awaken • Inspire • Empower

New Posts Every Tuesday and Saturday