After training for months and anticipating it for even longer than that, in 2011, I participated in a marathon that left me with a sour taste in my mouth for more than a year. In an attempt to change what I considered a negative experience into something positive, I registered for the same race 3 years later, but went about it with an entirely different state-of-mind. And that made all the difference. “If you do something again, but with a completely different set of expectations and intentions, you almost always get different results,” says John McGrail, Ph.D., self-help expert, spiritual teacher and author of The Synthesis Effect in Los Angeles. Here are five things you can do to get over goof-ups and open your life to more success:
Focus on learning. Our society is “obsessed with the concept of success, wanting more, of being the best, winning versus losing, all the while focusing on the negative aspects of our endeavors,” says McGrail. We label attempts as mistakes or failures when things don’t go right and quickly react to it often shutting down and feeling bad about it. Cheryl Rice, life coach, president of Your Life Your Vision in Glenside, Pa., and author of Where Have I Been All My Life? doesn’t label consequences as mistakes—good or bad. “They just are. We make decisions, there are consequences. If we learn from our choices then we win.” Adopting that attitude helps you grow in your ability to create whatever success you desire.
Don’t beat yourself up. My 2011 marathon was on the rugged coast of California. My Philadelphia flight landed 8 hours from my hotel because I booked my flight into the wrong airport. I spent an entire day driving—enough time to berate myself for being stupid, geographically impaired, a poor-planner—you name it. I wasn’t able to get over this travel-error glitch, and it affected my entire trip. I never honored the fun I had meeting other runners, the beauty of the course as well as my courage and accomplishment. “Nothing good comes of beating yourself up,” confirms Angela Marchesani, program coordinator and counselor at the Women’s Resource Center in Wayne, Pa. When you find yourself being critical and ruminating on the past, she recommends this: “Visualize a stop sign in your mind. Turn your attention to something pleasant or benign, take a deep breath and let yourself smile. Practice that repeatedly to break the habit.”
Tweak it. A re-do doesn’t have to be a big deal. Rice recalls a former client made an easy change after being disappointed in herself for not speaking up at a meeting. Rice suggested her client do one thing differently for the next meeting: write down thoughts before the next meeting to take off the pressure of thinking on your feet, amplify someone else’s point or ask a question, says Rice.
Forgive yourself. Forgiveness takes time and can be hard. Engaging in positive talk helps in the process (the more good things you say, the better you feel). “Forgiveness and self-compassion are critical not just because they feel better than beating ourselves up,” says Rice. “but because they help us reflect and ask ‘Why didn’t that go the way I had hoped? How can I learn from that and do something different going forward?’ We can’t learn if we don’t have a tolerance for learning, which includes having forgiveness for ourselves and compassion.”
Feel it. Do it. You’ll know your re-do is working when your thoughts are empowering and compassionate. Are you feeling more optimistic about the future? Check your actions. Are you are taking thoughtful and intentional action on things that are important to you? “These are huge metrics,” says Rice. “Very often we are not in charge of the results we get. We are in charge of how we show up every day. This leads to a life of freedom, contribution and satisfaction.”