“Show me a person who has never made a mistake and I’ll show you someone who has never achieved much.” – Joan Collins
mistakes, at least on the inside, can seem so overwhelming and massively impactful when they first happen. what’s worse is when they’re surprising and in public, which can often happen in the workplace. when I first started out my career, I wanted to do everything perfect, and to be honest, the perfectionist in me still wants that. but trying to be perfect came at a huge cost.
I started to use the fear of failure and mistakes as an excuse to avoid deadlines or project milestones. I was gripped with the fear that I would make a mistake and that everyone would hate me afterwards, that if I made one little mistake, my whole career might be ruined. but the funniest thing happened, I made mistakes anyways, even though I’d tried so hard to avoid them. and guess what? no one hated me. in fact, I didn’t hate myself either.
aiming to avoid mistakes all together, i.e. perfectionism, is the worst enemy of your progress. the more you focus on eliminating potentials for mistakes as you work, the less likely you are to move forward and succeed. in fact, you’ll likely be so consumed with the idea that you must avoid mistakes, that you’ll miss the bigger picture. allow yourself to move and create freely, giving you the room to breathe and succeed, which might sound counterintuitive but is so true.
avoiding mistakes also keeps you from succeeding with the people around you. it freezes you in your current state and keeps you from improving and growing. like I mentioned, fear and the avoidance of mistakes is the perfect way to miss deadlines and make excuses. and to be frank, no one likes someone who makes excuses.
so if mistakes are inevitable at the workplace, how might one handle them? I’ve learned a few crucial lessons (the hard way) that help me rebound quickly from a mistake. the first is to be ready to be open and honest. being upfront about your mistake and owning up to it is crucial in how others perceive you and the mistake. beat around the bush or avoid the full truth and you’ll find yourself in much deeper sh*t than you anticipated. owning up to your mistake is the first step in recovery.
assess the situation and understand where it went wrong, then apologize. even if there were others involved, focus on what it was that you could have done better and why things didn’t work out. this is actionable and it shows your peers and superiors that you’re committed to improving.
lastly, give yourself a break. we ALL make mistakes, it’s just a fact of life. and the more risk you take on (read: opportunity), the more mistakes you’ll make. don’t be afraid of them. instead, learn to react to them swiftly and efficiently, so you’ll spend less time brooding over the mistake, and more time rebounding and improving.