How to Recover From Mistakes

Career consultant Diana Henderson shares her advice on rebounding to success.

From Diana:
We can’t avoid making mistakes—in our lives or careers—but we can certainly recover well from them. And when we do, our success speaks much louder than our mistakes ever could. Regardless of the mistake, the way you choose to recover could catapult you forward rather than knocking you backwards. Rebounding is a choice. These are the lessons I've learned—often the hard way—about handling mistakes well. How to Recover From Mistakes

1. Move forward

Mistakes are inevitable. Instead of harping on them, choose to focus on your recovery, rather than focusing solely on correcting the mistake. Of course you're accountable for the mistake, but it's also important to move forward. In the wise words of Jay-Z, “brush your shoulders off.”

2. Take the humble path

It’s absolutely less traveled, but it’s higher ground and there’s less competition there. In the world of law, it's called “mea culpa"—a formal acknowledgement of personal fault or error. When you humbly admit fault, you disarm the other parties involved. Try it! I’ve yet to see this approach fail.

3. Reclassify your “miss”

In addition to highlighting failures, our culture has also made us afraid of failing in the first place. This fear causes us to forfeit potential gain in favor of remaining comfortable, unchallenged or un-stretched. Instead of calling it a miss, call it a “mission”—mistakes bring purpose to your success.

4. We ALL make them

Have you ever studied someone from afar and admired their perfection? Their career, their family, their possessions, all so perfectly executed. If you look up close, they might not be as put together as you suspected. The moment you stop comparing yourself to the person next to you is the moment you realize that everyone has made and will make mistakes, and everyone's mistakes are worth learning from.

5. Share your mistake

Ever felt an urge to tell someone after you’ve had an “ah-ha” moment—what you learned and how they can avoid the pile you stepped in? Do it! Maybe that’s a novel concept in a world that tells us to perform perfection, but one of my favorite quotes is, “You’ve been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.” It requires showing a little vulnerability, but the benefit is that someone else will gain from your loss.

6. Your success outweighs your failure

No doubt, mistakes are unpleasant. Often they sting and have real consequences. Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb. No matter how heavy your mistakes, your success will still outweigh them. I choose to focus on my outcomes, rather than my circumstances.


For more from Diana, read her recent columns on our site or visit her online at DianaHendersonConsult.com.

Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump.

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