You Cannot Make a Mistake

Have you ever had that “Oh, sh*t!” moment when you realize you sent a message to the wrong person? Of course you have.

It happened to me last week. In my case, I addressed this person by the wrong name in a message. It wasn’t until after I sent the message that I noticed this (no “undo send” in LinkedIn).

This led me to reflect on one Foundational Principle of my coach training program that “You Cannot Make a Mistake.” I thought, well, I just disproved that principle.

Or did I actually prove it?

It’s only in hindsight, after everything is done, when you can judge an outcome as good or bad. In the moment when you are “doing,” you are performing with all available knowledge, skills, talent, and information. You are performing in alignment with your capabilities at that time, and there’s no mistake in the doing.

Even if you make a conscious choice to put forth less than full effort or to go intentionally against a process, you are still doing as you intended. There’s no mistake here.

It’s in the judging and labeling of an outcome where a “mistake” shows up in your rearview mirror. And that is precisely the moment when you choose how you are going to move forward.

Your responses can look something like this:

1.       I’m terrible at this and so careless. I can’t recover from this. It would be better to just shut the whole thing down than risk embarrassing myself again.

2.       This lousy platform made me look awful! Why wasn’t there an undo or recall function to get me out of this situation?

3.       Whoops, my bad! I wasn’t paying as much attention to this as I should have. At least there’s something to learn from this, and it could have been worse. I’ll have to be more careful next time.

4.       I’ll send a follow-up apology to the person. They might be feeling bad that I called them by the wrong name. Nobody likes being called by someone else’s name.

5.       I wonder how I can connect with this individual differently and more personally. How can I improve my process so that the outcomes align better with my intentions? What other opportunities open now that this happened*?

To be clear, this much more than making lemonade when you believe you’ve been dealt lemons.

This shift – this bias toward action – occurs when you raise your energy.

When you experience an unexpected outcome, you have a choice.

You can label this a “mistake” and anchor yourself to “past thinking” to find reasons for what went wrong, assess blame, deflect accountability, or question your abilities or your plan.

Or you can recognize that there is and will be opportunities that this experience will bring you. Things like insight, awareness, acceptance, continuous learning, resilience, and humility.

These are the attributes that will sustain you through difficult or challenging times.

What choice will you make?

*As far as opportunities go, if you asked me two weeks ago what I planned to write about today, I would not have seen this topic on my horizon.