Mistakes happen. And they’re not always negative – Post-It notes were the result of a mistake making a super strong glue.
So the short answer is that you shouldn’t be worried about making mistakes.
In fact, your whole life has probably had a series of mistakes that haven’t adversely affected you. You didn’t walk the first time you stood up – you made mistakes until you learned how that worked. Likewise you almost certainly didn’t achieve perfect balance on your bike. And when you learned to drive a car, it took a while and not everything you did was perfect. The list goes on.
Some of this is because we worry what other people will think. Sure, you shouldn’t aim to make mistakes all the time but they can and do happen. Unless it’s a really major mistake that affects tens or hundreds or thousands of people, there’s a good chance it will be forgiven and that the only person to remember it in more than a few days time is you.
Because other people will have moved on with their lives despite the fact that you made a mistake. And unless you drew their attention to it, they may not even have noticed.
Software has mistakes all the time – we call them bugs but they’re usually as a result of something not working correctly or someone discovering some kind of security problem (so it was a mistake leaving that possibility, even if the programmers didn’t spot it). Every time your phone or computer or TV or any other device updates, that’s probably fixing a mistake.
Stop focusing on the negative side of mistakes
Some mistakes probably shouldn’t have happened – but often they can only be seen with the benefit of hindsight.
They may or may not have a negative side – that varies according to the severity of whatever it was that didn’t go right.
Instead, look on the positive side.
That’s what scientists do all the time – they even call their attempts to find an answer experiments.
So maybe changing terminology will help you to stop focusing on the negative aspect of things. Edison is said to have made over a thousand attempts to create the electric light bulb but instead of calling each failed attempt a mistake, he said it was an invention that took 1,000 steps.
You can almost certainly turn round how you look at things that haven’t gone right in the same kind of way – challenge yourself to do that rather than just saying “Oh, I made a mistake” and then focusing on the negative side of what happened.
Keep things in perspective
In the grand scheme of things, almost nothing you can do stops everything else (OK, there is one thing but I’ve promised to be positive so we’ll assume you’re still breathing),
In your mind’s eye, go forward in time by a year. Imagine what life is like – obviously you’ll be a year older but what else has changed? Would you even remember whatever mistake has caused you to get worried? Or would it be consigned to whatever outpost your brain puts most of its memories, never to be recalled again?
Another option is to imagine yourself looking down at yourself from a great height (maybe looking out from a plane window or just floating on a cloud) and deciding whether whatever it is you’re worrying about still seems significant. Because it probably doesn’t.
Perfection doesn’t happen
Nobody is perfect. Not even you.
Sure. we can strive for perfection but it doesn’t happen. Almost no diamond is flawless – even the most expensive ones – but they’re still valuable and people still treat them as though they’re perfect.
Get as close as you can to perfection without obsessing about it and without worrying about the (probably small) things that have happened that aren’t totally perfect.
Almost always, the phrase “good enough is good enough” works. Which leaves a bit of room for the occasional mistake whilst still getting a decent result.
Re-train your mind
Re-training your mind to chill out and not worry about making occasional mistakes is actually one of the easiest parts of the process because you don’t have to do much.
In fact, all you need to do is download an audio track and play it to yourself. The audio will lead your subconscious mind to places where it’s nowhere near as worried if you make mistakes.
All by just listening to this audio a few times.