How to Bounce Back After Failure Smacks You in the Face

Bounce back after failure smacks you in the faceThis past week I messed up, ROYALLY.

I was horrified when after arriving home from being out of town for my dad’s funeral, I glanced at a paper calendar on my desk. I noticed that I had two days of training in there for this week, that I had promised a client I would personally handle six months previously. Bad news was I had forgotten to put it in my electronic calendar and had two full days booked with other commitments.

I was beside myself when I looked at my calendar on my phone and realized I had eight clients booked, a morning coaching session with a team as well as a speaking engagement during those two days.

Thinking maybe I’d made a mistake, I looked back through my emails and saw that I had booked those dates in July when my son was getting out of the hospital after his brain surgery. That explained why I hadn’t followed through and gotten it in my electronic calendar as I’d been very stressed and exhausted, but that didn’t solve any problems of my mixed up schedule for the week.

The clients I could move, but the morning session with the team was very important and the speaking engagement was another huge concern.

I felt crushed, like such a loser. I already struggle with feeling scattered and spread thin and here I fully recognized that I’d messed up.

I wanted to hide, but I knew with all certainty that I was going to be exposed for the sometimes messiness that goes on behind the scenes in my life and business.

I spent the following morning doing my best to make things “right.”

I reflected back later on what had helped me in that process to make things that had been such a mess go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Breathe — no really, BREATHE. Stress takes the “reasoning/proactive” part of your brain offline and puts you into the reactive/lizard part of your brain.

    You’ve already messed up — you want to be able to think as clearly as possible. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, deeply, if nothing else for a minute. Even a minute of slow breathing brings your cortisol levels down.

  2. Be kind to yourself — we ALL mess up! Speak to yourself like you would a friend: kindly and compassionately. Being imperfect is something you share with all of humanity. Shame whispers, “Only you could screw up so royally” — nudge shame back by reminding yourself everyone messes up.

  3. Reach out — let one of your peeps know that you’ve messed up. Once you have the courage to be seen, even in your mess, the pain dissipates a bit.

  4. Tap into your values — you’ve messed up, you need to do what’s right. Let your values light the way. When we act with authenticity and with integrity, that brings a feeling of deep fulfillment. Sure we messed up, but reacting in a value based way is a win/win for both you and whomever you need to make up to for the mistake.

  5. Stay out of the story — you wonder what I’m talking about? You’re an incredible story maker. You make a mistake and without you even being fully aware of it you’ve gone into thinking up a dramatic, non validated story about how the party you have wronged may react, which only adds to more stress.

    Let’s say you mess up at work, the first thoughts are usually a doomsday story, you start thinking, “My boss is going to be so ticked off, I may be looked over for a promotion over this one,” or “My team is going to think I’m stupid.” Or the story we make up about ourselves: “I’m a fraud, an idiot…” You fill in the shame driven blank.

    Stay in the moment. Tell yourself the truth, “I’ve messed up, I don’t know what will happened but I will do my best to handle this will all the resources I have available to me.”

  6. Own it — take responsibility for where you went wrong. Go to the person and let them know what happened.

  7. Apologize — Say sorry, you don’t have to go over board by groveling or letting them know what a screw up you feel like, apologize — short and sweet, “I’m sorry for…”

  8. Make amends — what could you do to make up for your mistake? What would be helpful in this situation? If you don’t know — ask the person or party that you’ve wronged and come up with something that works for all of you.

It’s critical to have some tools to use as we bounce back from failure and mistakes. We all fall; we all need to get up.

In the wise words of Vince Lombardi, “It’s not about how many times we get knocked down, but rather how many times you get up that really counts.”

We all fall, may we all rise strong: learning from our mistakes and continue to forge ahead with integrity and courage.

Leona deVinne