Making a mistake sucks, doesn’t it? You didn’t want or intend it and it hurts. Sometimes it’s hard to bounce back and regain your confidence. But it can be done. Gabby Douglas and the women’s gymnastics team comes to mind. It’s about what you do after failing that makes you great. So let me share my secret for crawling back up when I slip on the climb to success.
How To Rebalance after a Mistake
Did you ever notice that the toughest questions to answer are also the shortest? “Who are you?” seems like a perfectly simple question – until you really think about the answer. It can be so much more complex than your first and last name.
Most people carry an image of themselves in their minds and hearts. It’s like a Polaroid picture, a frozen image that represents the very best of your identity. This image includes all the traits, qualities and ideals that you hold important or dear. I call it your core identity.
That Polaroid acts as a guide for your actions and reactions as you interact with others. Should somebody do or say something that ‘smudges’ your Polaroid, or conflicts with your self-image, you will fight to preserve the image. (‘Those are fightin’ words!) You’ll definitely know when someone shakes your Polaroid ’cause it hurts and makes you steaming mad.
The natural instinct is to do one of two things: blame the other person (You are so mean to me) or blame yourself (I am horrible!). You ping back and forth between the two reactions like the puck in air hockey until you wear yourself down with bad feelings. You’ve been there, right?
Be a Movie Star!
The best way to keep your calm in challenging situations is to remake your fixed Polaroid into an evolving story like a movie. You are a movie star! And, you thought bouncing back wouldn’t be fun! (That’s a picture of Neo from the Matrix, btw)
Remember the thrilling German movie, Run Lola Run, that featured the same basic storyline but with several different endings? Just like that movie, your thoughts and actions can change how you perceive the situation, and even the outcome.
My first trip to Denver for a speaking gig was very exciting. I’d never been to the Mile High City before and heard it was gorgeous. I arrived the night before to prep and relax. Out of the blue, I got horrible flu symptoms. Weak, sweaty, feverish. So I took myself down to the concierge for some meds. She knew right away it was altitude sickness, not the flu, that was making me nauseous, and sadly told me I’d be out of commission for 24 hours at least.
How stupid was I for not checking in earlier? What kind of meeting planner doesn’t alert out of town speakers about altitude sickness? I was sick and furious with us both! I took a deep breath and reviewed my movie. Yes, I’m an engaging speaker and educator and clients tell me that through feedback evaluations. Yes, I pride myself on being prepared with plans from A-E. AND, I’m human and can only give the best I have at the moment. AND, G-d laughs when man plans, so who am I to argue? AND, I’ve run a big event and know that there’s a the ton of details there is to manage and forget.
I’d calmed myself down and reset my intention to give my all. I showed up the next morning, worried I might gak on my shoes, and did a fine job. Sure, I could’ve let those mistakes and the entire situation sideline me, but instead I chose to grow my confidence instead. Even ill, I’m pretty kick-ass!
That’s what I want you to realize. Making a mistake doesn’t negate who you are at your core. Your core identity is never one thing- competent or a loser; skilled or hopeless; kind or self-centered. When you realize that you are both the hero and the villain in your own story, it becomes easier to see that in your clients and colleagues too. And, a whole lot easier to have compassion for yourself and them!
What’s your core identity?
When you raise your self-awareness, and know your movie better, you’ll have an easier time bouncing back. ’It’s a good idea to spend a few minutes thinking about that core identity I talked about.
Take a moment and write the answers to these questions and share in the comments. Who are you?
- Name 5 things that are absolutely true about you and 3 times you didn’t live up to that.
- List 3 ways that you hope clients perceive you. Is there a gap between how you see you and they do?
- Name 3 labels you would like to avoid. Are they totally inconsistent with who you are?
Be willing to know that who you think you are may not be who you actually are all the time. Embrace that and you’ll be able to forgive yourself and others.
Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life. —Herbert Otto