Have you ever watched yourself become a mistake magnet? I have.

First I type “rick” instead of “nick” in an email about an important business meeting. Then, instead of arriving ten minutes early to a roomful of professionals awaiting me, I arrive ten minutes late. Because three is a charm, I soon realize that I failed to inform a key person about the meeting.

I make one mistake and I feel embarrassed by my kerfuffle. I make two mistakes and I feel both worried about what the other person thinks and guilty for being a source of suffering. I make three mistakes, and my shame is in full force.

None of us likes to make mistakes, even though we all do. We make many mistakes, but most of them are only seen by us. We correct or hide them before others know.

When I amass multiple mistakes involving the same situation, project, or person, the judger in me gets going big time.

What is wrong with you?

Can’t you get anything right?

How is anyone going to think you are competent?

Those are the gentler thoughts.

Compassion is the antidote to judgement. It is exactly what I get when I send the email to apologize, when I enter the room and apologize, and when I pick up the phone to apologize. Everyone is kind, yet I feel like a walking apology not deserving of the generosity of spirit.

If I cannot forgive myself for the times when I amass mistakes, it means I attach judgment to erring more than once in a given time frame. Each of my errors were worthy of forgiveness, yet I put a cap on how many times I was allowed to be human.

Having said that, I know my failures are opportunities for both feedback and constructive curiosity.

Is there a pattern to observe?

What else was going on at the time?

What else is true?

With some real reflection and truth telling, I can take responsibility for my wrongs without blaming or excuses but with a broader picture of the situation. I may have screwed up royally and I may also notice that in addition to my blunders I did a boatload of things right. I can also remember that my intention was always to do my best, despite my disappointing actions.

As I shifted my focus from my cutting self-criticism to rebuilding the relationships where trust was likely damaged, I began making my amends and vowed to do better going forward. Fortunately for me, the forgiveness of others made it possible. The kindness of others helped me find my faith that I could learn the lessons here for me without shame.

Coach Koenig

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