Hate making mistakes? There’s a solution…

There’s perhaps nothing quite so bad as making a mistake at work. They can haunt us. I once sent a confidential email to someone working in a different company. My manager was not happy and the thought of it made me cringe for weeks.

Of course it’s completely logical that we are bothered by work mistakes. We don’t want people to think we can’t do our job. That could lead to all sorts of trouble. So yes, it’s good to set up whatever strategies we can to avoid mistakes, and try our best to learn from them (or near-misses). They can be incredibly informative or part of a bigger journey.

But there’s something else we can do: anticipate mistakes and depersonalise them.

It’s incredibly harsh to expect ourselves to never make mistakes. What is so criminal about a mistake anyway? Sadly, lots of people have probably lived and died carrying shame and embarrassment to their graves – their personal list of innocuous incidents which only they remember. No rational upstanding person cares about anyone else’s mistakes, they just care about (and remember) their own!

Observe human fallibility in action

If you really struggle to depersonalise your mistakes, it might be that your self-esteem derives too heavily from the notion that you are (basically) perfect. Ask yourself whether this is really doing you any favours? Surely there is more to you than this? Try to recognise your good qualities; the things you do for others and why they care about you.

Every now and again remind yourself and prepare yourself for the next mistake you’re going to make. And let it go. Observe human fallibility in action. This will help you to be honest and humble. Remember the big wide world and all the poor people in their graves with their lists of shame.