Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

What to do When you Make a Mistake

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Are you afraid of making mistakes?

My wife and I have been having some discussions about where our lives are headed and where we want to go. We see aspects where changes need to be made. Some changes are desired due to a shift in perspective. Some are due to a realization that not everything we are doing is working. Some parts of our lives are broken.

To some degree this change is exciting. We let ourselves think ahead into the future of what could be, imagining something better.

But these potential changes are scary too. It would mean living our lives differently. It could mean hurt feelings by those who don’t see life the same way we see it.

It could also mean making a huge mistake.

The fear of messing up, of making the wrong “big” decision, of choosing something that we will one day regret, is perhaps the single biggest obstacle to changing our stories.

photo by

I like how they are posing with the wreck, including the man with the bandaged head. photo by drakegoodman

Why We Are Afraid to Mess Up

This fear is normal. Sometimes good. But sometimes not. Have you wondered why are we so afraid of mistakes?

1. We can’t change the past.

Once we do something, it is done. We can’t go back and undo it. Our decisions and actions, whether beneficial or full of error, become a permanent fixture of the past. Yes, there can be forgiveness, and thank God for that. But forgiveness does not erase what we did. Consequences come.

And this scares us to death. What if we choose the wrong thing and end up wishing we could change it? What if?

2. Over time, what we want, and are certain of, changes.

What were you certain about 10 years ago? How much of that are you certain about now? Do you have the same political views? How about friends? Do you go to the same church? Do you like the same food? Are you the person you thought you should be or are you someone different?

Life carries almost no certainty and making decisions, changing our lives is never certain prospect. There will always be doubt. And this scares us.

3. We can never have full confidence in our decisions.

You have thought long and hard. You have done the research and understand every aspect of the decision. You’ve sought out counsel and advice. But how will you ever know for certain if this is the right decision? How can you limit your risk to nothing?

You can’t. And even the smallest amount of risk scares us.

Why We Should Make Mistakes

Because if we let our fear of making a mistake paralyze us, we will never do anything. We will never try anything different. We will never change our stories. We will never discover something new.

And because mistakes are okay.

So far, you have survived all of your mistakes. So far, you have been able to recover from all of your previous mishaps. Chances are everything will be okay.

Should you be careful? Should you think long and hard about big decisions? Should seek counsel and advice? Yes.

But you shouldn’t let your fear overwhelm you. Avoid mistakes when possible. But be willing to make them.

Perhaps one of the beast things we can do to improve our stories is to allow ourselves the freedom to mess up.

What to do When you Make a Mistake

  1. Accept the Mistake for What it is. A mistake. Denial helps nobody.
  2. Forgive yourself.
  3. If you hurt others, admit your fault, and ask their forgiveness.
  4. Correct the error.
  5. Learn from the mistake and risk making another.

What is one mistake you made that made your story better?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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4 Replies

  1. One mistake I made was when I struck out on my own after being let go from a job. The thought was that I could create a business and thrive in it. Sadly, the business sunk and didn’t get very far off the ground.

    However, with that failure, there was also success. I had picked up one client who needed steady help. This allowed me to work half days with them until they hired me full time.

    It’s an interesting twist to the story but I like it. It shows our failures don’t always meet with ruin. They can actually be the building block of success.

  2. That’s really cool, Joe. With stories likes yours, it really messes with our definition of failure.

  3. Jeremy, I’d have to out a brief foray into network marketing in the mistake category simply because my heart wasn’t really in the product being sold. But I learned a lot that I use every day. Failing forward and all that!

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