Congrats on being human. It’s what you do after making a mistake that speaks volumes.
As a part of human nature, you are going to make mistakes. Period. Nothing to be done for it, it’s going to happen. You are perfectly imperfect, so mistakes are inevitable.
Once you acknowledge this, it becomes a lot easier to figure out what to do after making a mistake.
Of course, mistakes can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are relatively small and nearly insignificant. On the other hand, some can be pretty colossal, and impact not only you, but people you care about, and even complete strangers.
It’s important to recognize the difference between a mistake, an error in judgment, and intentional misdirection.
What constitutes a mistake?
To put it as simply as I can, a mistake is an error. It might be a choice, such as which route to take to work. Maybe you messed up your math and gave too much change to someone. You might have called someone by the wrong name or title.
Mistakes are unintentional, and that’s the most important thing to note about them. A mistake is an error of some sort that may or may not have been the result of choice.
According to Dictionary.com, a mistake is:
an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.
a misunderstanding or misconception.
verb (used with object)
to regard or identify wrongly as something or someone else
to understand, interpret, or evaluate wrongly; misunderstand; misinterpret.
verb (used without object)
to be in error.
Yes, this does place the onus of a mistake on you and me. But even when a mistake is the result of carelessness, it is an unintentional act.
Everyone makes mistakes along the way because nobody knows everything. Further, if you only took actions based on absolute knowledge, you would stifle growth potential. Mistakes can help you to learn, evolve, and discover new possibilities, realities, and so on.
How does an error in judgment differ from a mistake?
A mistake is unintentional. You didn’t set out to err, but it happened. No intent was behind it. An error in judgment, though, might be intentional, or might not.
Let’s say that you believe that a person is lazy. Plenty of evidence leads you to this conclusion, so you judge them (silently or otherwise) as such. But then you learn they are suffering from medical conditions that leave them with zero energy, and just getting out of bed in the morning is a triumph most days.
Not lazy, ill. That is an error in judgment. You were mistaken, but you intentionally believed in that person’s laziness.
This can also apply to the self. I used to think I was an overweight, utterly unskilled and un-athletic lump of flesh, incapable of any prowess in any sport. Twenty-seven years of fencing, the resulting reaction time in other applications, and not entirely sucking at fencing has proven that wrong.
An error in judgment is not always intentional, however. If you have limited information from which you form an opinion and subsequent judgment that turns out to be wrong, no intent was behind that. Unless you retain an opinion you know to be false, wrong, or hurtful, in which case you have provided it with intent.
What is an intentional misdirection?
While a mistake is unintentional, and an error in judgment can be both with and without intent, an intentional misdirection is all about intent.
Simply put, this is a lie. A half-truth. A tall tale. Bullshit.
Cheating on your taxes. Having an affair. Stealing. All of these are referred to as “mistakes,” because they are, technically (see the Dictionary.com definition of mistake above). But the intentional action of misdirection is more than just an error, it’s an error with malice of forethought.
Sure, you know it’s a mistake to cheat on your golf game and call a mulligan on every hole — or two. But you do it anyhow to impact your handicap and lower your score. If you get caught, you can make some excuse for your “mistake” in scoring.
Big or small, intentional misdirection is not a harmless mistake. Read many of the Tweets from Trump if you want to see this in action.
When you make a mistake or an error in judgment, and learn about it, you have a choice. Let it go without saying anything, or apologize and/or make adjustments/corrections.
It is best to be accountable for your mistakes. That way, you can take corrective or alternative actions, and let people know that you recognize them. Further, being accountable for a mistake can help you to learn not to repeat it, and even prevent similar errors in the future.
Accountability and responsibility go a long ways towards being more complete and gaining the things you desire to have for your life. When you are not accountable for yourself and your thoughts, feelings, or actions, you give away all of your empowerment.
Why does that matter? Because if you give it away, you lessen your potential to be the best you that you can be. But more than that, you disempower yourself and set yourself up to hold some pretty negative opinions of yourself.
For example, “I am a screw-up,” and “I never do anything right” and “I’m bad at everything” and even “my life is worthless because all I do is make mistakes and hurt people with them.” Blame, even of yourself, is not accountability, because it leaves no room for improvement or change. Any of this look at all familiar?
Accountability looks like this: I screwed up. What can I learn from that? I did that wrong, what is the right way to do it? I may be bad at this, but I can learn and get better. My life is worthwhile and like everyone, I make mistakes and apologize if I hurt someone.
Blame doesn’t feel good, but accountability does. Ownership of your mistakes and errors in judgment opens you up to changing and doing better next time.
Finally, it is important that after you make a mistake or an error in judgment you forgive yourself.
This is usually the hardest part. If you are anything like me, you may have a skewed perspective of your personal right/wrong filter. As such, when you make a mistake or an error in judgment you get upset with yourself and find it hard to be forgiving.
But it is as important as being accountable to be forgiving to yourself. Again, you are only human, and mistakes are a part of your nature. Accept that part of you, acknowledge it, and forgive yourself when it happens.
Yes, this can also be applied to an intentional misdirection, too. However, first you have to own up to your bullshit, be accountable for your intentional action, and make a real effort to change that action. If you continue to act with bad intention and tell lies and commit acts you know to be wrong, you probably don’t even see a need to forgive yourself in the first place. But if you “take ownership of your ugly” as Jen Sincero says, you can also forgive yourself in time.
You are perfectly imperfect. Mistakes happen, as do errors in judgment and intentional misdirection. Recognize when this happens, acknowledge it, be accountable for it, and forgive yourself along the way.
This is all a part of the process of life. The good, the bad, the ugly. The choices for what do with it and decisions on how to alter it — or not — are entirely up to you.
Congrats on being human. It’s what you choose to do after making a mistake that speaks volumes to everyone you encounter as well as to you yourself.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you matter, as does how you handle mistakes you make.