Give yourself permission to make mistakes

Posted by Kerry Hannon.
A few years ago, I made the decision to give a veterinary surgeon permission to perform a potentially life-saving procedure on my horse. The decision had to be made quickly because she had colicked and was in pain from what we learned later was an impaction in her intestines.
I knew the chances of success were not great, but I decided to roll the dice. I loved her with all my heart and selfishly wanted her to stay part of my life.
She didn’t survive. Not only was I heartbroken, but she was not insured. The tab: $10,000.
It was a mistake. In fact, a colossal one. I put her through trauma that she didn’t deserve all for my own needs.
Yes, there were odds she would make it. Many horses do, but given her age, 13, and medical history, the vet should have advised me not to do it. He didn’t. And I made a decision based purely on emotion. I’m not blaming the vet. It’s his business to save lives. I blame myself for being selfish.
I chewed on this mistake for a long time. Although I still wince when I think about it, believe it or not, I have accepted it.
I own it. I know that I made a mistake. I acknowledge it. I understand why I made the choice and know that I will never make that kind of bad decision again.
Importantly, I have also forgiven myself for it.
We all make mistakes. I have called someone by the wrong name in a business meeting. I have accepted a work assignment that I didn’t do my best work on because I had too much else on my plate, but didn’t know how to say no. I have driven the wrong way down a one-way street. I have forgotten the birthday of someone close to me.
You have probably made similar missteps big and small and survived.
You live through it. You learn from it, hopefully. The key is that you can’t feel guilty and dwell on it, or it festers. It takes a toll on you.
Making mistakes is part of life. We take risks. We make leaps of faith. Or we simply flub up because we aren’t paying attention, or our brains freeze, or we’re too caught up in our own heads.
The true lesson I’ve found through my own personal and professional life and talking to experts from career coaches to psychologists is that it’s how you handle that gaffe, even the tiny embarrassing ones, when it happens and in the seconds and minutes and days afterwards, that make a difference in your ability to learn from it.
You say you’re sorry. You concede you screwed up, even if the only one who you have to admit it to is yourself, and get on with it. People will forgive you.
Importantly, give yourself permission to make mistakes. That’s humanity. Oscar Wilde, the playwright, once said: “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
You can’t live your life by trying to avoid mistakes. Instead of ducking new challenges on the job, or in life because you’re afraid of making a mistake or failing, shift your thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that—and I’ll learn by doing it.”
Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America has sponsored Ask the Expert posts for informational purposes only. Many of the experts are unaffiliated with Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, College Retirement Equities Fund, and their affiliates and subsidiaries (collectively TIAA), and TIAA makes no representations regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information on the posts or otherwise made available by the experts. Statements of external featured experts are solely their own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA.
Responses from experts to questions posed by Woman2Woman community members are intentionally general in nature and are not intended to give personal, financial, or specific advice. Some strategies are complex, and more information is often needed to determine the personal needs of a community member. We strongly recommend that you consult with a financial advisor before taking any action based on an expertʼs opinion or other information you obtain from the Woman2Woman: Financial Living site so that all of your personal circumstances can be taken into consideration. Participation in the site does not render the member a client of the expert or of TIAA.
This site is not designed to accept or respond to requests or complaints regarding specific TIAA accounts, products or services. If you wish to discuss an issue of that nature, please contact TIAA at 800-842-2252. TIAA is not responsible for any opinions provided by members of this site. TIAA is not responsible for the content or privacy policies of third-party sites to which you may link.
The TIAA group of companies does not offer tax or legal advice. You should consult an independent tax or legal advisor for advice based on your own particular circumstances.
The material and responses are for informational or educational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation or investment advice in connection with a distribution, transfer or rollover, a purchase or sale of securities or other investment property, or the management of securities or other investments, including the development of an investment strategy or retention of an investment manager or advisor. The material and responses do not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular individual, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made in consultation with an investorʼs personal advisor based on the investorʼs own objectives and circumstances.
Experts may not have medical or scientific training. Any information related to physical or emotional health is not intended to be used in place of a consultation with a physician.
TIAA is not responsible for the statements of community members. We may link to posts made by community members only to direct you to topics that may be of interest to you. This does not mean that we agree with the opinions of these community members. Their statements are solely their own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA.
May 26, 2017