Breathing Room…

I had been wanting to make a shelf in my workshop. It was going to hold up some finishing products I use on my woodworking projects. Plus, it’s good practice anyway. It was just #11 on my mental list of projects I want to get done. So I was planning on getting it done, just eventually.

Earlier this week I had to book a flight for an upcoming trip. I had been somewhat rushed when I was making the plans, but I thought that I had gone over the details fairly thoroughly. When I double checked my officially paid for itinerary, it looked good. Then my girlfriend saw it and pointed out that I had booked my return flight for a time that would be impossible for me to make. When I went to fix this oversight, the resulting fee was significant (like 2/3 of the original cost significant).

You ever make a mistake like that? One that makes you kick yourself, and beg to find someone else to blame, but you can’t? A mistake that frustrates you to no end, and winds up distracting you from work? Like, a mistake that completely derails your day.

Here are somethings I’ve learned that help offset those kind of mistakes:

1) Step away – After I make a fairly large mistake, I wind up trying to stay focused on the task before me, only to watch my quality and productivity diminish over time. The problem is that I’m so agitated with myself that focusing on another task becomes twice as difficult. I think the reason is that I now kind of feel like a mini-failure on the day.

Stepping away is critical to stop the situation from getting worse. In some cases, we can make the mistake worse by emotionally reacting to the situation (calling and yelling at Delta, thus resulting in a flag on my personal profile with them). Stepping away also stops a spiraling effect from happening, where one mistake creates another mistake.

2) Get a quick win – One of the things that can happen after a somewhat big mistake is that we can begin to feel incompetent. When you cost yourself a decent amount of money, it’s easy to think you might not be able to do anything else right. A quick win, like putting up a shelf, folding some laundry, or making a needed work related phone call, can all help you get back your stride.

I stepped outside and built that shelf I had mentioned pretty quickly after the mistake was made. It was a good way to remind myself that I can, in fact, function as a fully grown and responsible adult. Getting a quick win is a good way to break the momentum a mistake can build.

3) Learn from it – I have to admit that I am not the best at being thorough with details. I’m much more of an ‘idea guy’ and not so much a ‘detail guy’. This has cost me before, which kind of makes this mistake worse. But I allowed myself to be in a hurry and it cost me. I knew better.

We will continue to make mistakes in life. The goal is always to make different mistakes than we did before, because that means we’ve learned. While it might be really frustrating and embarrassing to make these mistakes, you can’t hide from them. Instead, admit them, and learn how to avoid them in the future.

There you go. Three things to help you make the most of your mistakes, and stop them from ruining your day.

Let me know your thoughts down below.

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