Be Kind, Rewind: Learning From Mistakes

“Forget it enough to get over it, remember it enough so it doesn’t happen again.” -unknown

Whenever I’m feeling guilt or regret, the most common advice I get is “don’t dwell on it,” or “it’s in the past so just stop thinking about it.” If only it were that easy. But the truth is, until I am 100% okay with something, thoughts will ping around in my mind on a constant loop. I keep replaying the situation, wondering what I could have done differently.

Once I realized there was no way I could will my mind to stop with the instant replay, I knew I needed to find a better way to cope. If I was going to keep thinking about it, I wasn’t going to just criticize myself–I would make it constructive.

So this is what I do: I write down everything that I am thinking and brainstorm what may have gone wrong and how I could prevent it next time. Sometimes I just self reflect, other times I’ll do a little research to get a better perspective.

Example

What happened: Argued with my mom

Why did it happen: I was feeling anxious and stressed. Because of that, I wasn’t fully listening to her and we had a misunderstanding. I was already feeling on edge, so things escalated and I said some not-so-nice things.

How it makes me feel: I know it was my fault for not paying attention. I wasn’t really angry with her–I was stressed about other things and let it spill over into our conversation. I want to apologize for hurting her feelings.

What I can do next time: I know anxiety will probably always play a big role in my life, but I don’t want it to affect the way I treat others. I can use certain techniques (journaling, exercising, to-do lists) to manage my nerves and stay present so when I’m having a conversation with my mom, I can give her my full attention. If I can’t help feeling anxious, I’ll let her know what is going on so she doesn’t take it personally.

View it as a learning opportunity. You’re not perfect, so don’t beat yourself up. The fact that you care so much about what happened is a good sign. You’re concerned and you want to improve–just focus on how you could do better next time. Hopefully you’ll reach a point where you accept your mistake, learn the lesson and move on.