OOOPS!

                 “Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead .”
                                                                 Chinese Proverb
He wished he could have begun the day again. Instead, he replayed the events over and over, like a videotape embedded in his mind. His first day of high school. A few familiar faces, many unfamiliar ones. The cafeteria seemed so much larger. New procedures. Confusion ("Where should I sit?"). So many thoughts occupying his mind, it was understandable how it could have happened. Yet, there was no excuse. And no one was more critical of his behavior than was he. For he was the one who interrupted the din of lunch time activity, dropping a full tray of food-- glass shattering, sauce splattering-- witnessed by at least two hundred students. Never had he received so much applause for so little ...
Mistakes.  We all make them. However, some people learn from them and as a result, do something different; and others continue making the same mistakes. In part, this distinction results from the ways in which people perceive mistakes, and how they are affected by their occurrence. Some people consider a mistake to be a signal-- a means to a different end. Others simply experience it as the end. The former may have self-critical feelings that are short-lived; the latter, have more deep-seated angry, disappointed, critical feelings. Many people who are highly critical of their mistakes experience feelings of shame and humiliation after having erred.
These individuals are often their own worst critics, taking themselves to task much more severely than those who might have witnessed the faux pas. The difficulty in acting this way is that after awhile, your inner critic may go from lecturing about right and wrong, or about having broken a rule to evaluating YOU based on your actions. As a result, you may erroneously conclude that acting "bad" makes you "bad." Hence, if you want to be good and derive approval from those deemed important to you, mistakes must be avoided at all cost. In contrast, some people learn from mistakes by reframing the way in which mistakes are perceived: from catastrophe to opportunity.
A mistake represents an important occasion-- a chance to discover what works for you and what doesn't. It's a way of learning by discriminating and making useful choices: Under condition "A", a particular response may lead to one outcome; under condition "B", to another. Of utmost importance, what is implied here is, when erring, to the extent that you remain in control, you are more likely to make desired changes. This means consider that you made the mistake and you can learn what else to do under those circumstances.
In contrast, you won't learn anything from a mistake if you react with intense, self-punitive emotions that linger; or if you refuse to admit your error in judgment to yourself. For example: Someone starting a business may pursue an idea that failed because the timing was wrong, he (she) didn't utilize or have adequate funds, the market he was targeting at the present time was unresponsive, and so forth. An argument may have developed between spouses because one or both communicated ineffectively in any of a number of ways such as, failing to respond to specific statements, overlooking a prohibitive circumstance of the other at the time of a communication, or perhaps changing a subject prematurely.
Thus, when you "go wrong", irrespective of whether others brought it to your attention or it was self-evident, resist the urge to deny a problem exists or otherwise defend your- self. Instead, put the mistake to good use:


  • 1- Stifle yourself! Turn off that punitive, finger-wagging inner voice that makes you feel ashamed. Tell yourself some- thing more useful. Instead of, "You...fool! How could you be so stupid?" Try, "Let's take a look at what happened and how it could be different next time." This strategy can help you eliminate denial, which results from the desire to feel "right" in order to avoid the shame of an inner critic.
  • 2- Let, "OOPS", become, "Hmmm..." Allow a mistake to become an opportunities to learn something new by becoming "curious" (accessed by thinking of the last time that happened to you), and considering what specifically YOU could have done that could have resulted in a better outcome. Try on the new behavior.