Nowadays we’re told to accept our mistakes, to embrace our mistakes, even celebrate the fact that we’re making lots of mistakes.
Besieged with countless memes quoting famous folk, we are educated to view our blunders as opportunities for learning and growth.
“I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan
There is, of course, merit in this perspective. All of us are flawed, and none of us are immune to error. It’s true that we improve our abilities by going beyond our present capabilities, and making mistakes can indicate that we’re extending our comfort zone.
Logically, we all understand this, but here lies the problem. In the moments after a mistake has occurred, when the heat is on, our logic is smothered and extinguished by emotion. Like much in life, maintaining this perspective after we falter is easier said than done.
It is in these moments that, in reality, many flounder and dwell, whilst a select few regroup, reevaluate, and then return stronger than before.
Post mistake response
Most of us blame ourselves after making a mistake. Despite being a common reaction, it is also counterproductive, increasing our risk of entering into a spiral of negativity.
When we make a mistake, we experience an emotion, such as anger, frustration, anxiety, and so on. This is natural, and applies to us all. However, it’s how we respond at this juncture that will determine whether or not our subsequent performance level is negatively affected. At this point, we either prolong or diminish this emotion. Put another way, depending on how we interpret the mistake, we’ll take one of two paths…
If we take the negative path, we continue to experience our initial emotion, remaining angry, frustrated, anxious, and so forth. This in turn leads to detrimental cognitive and somatic changes in us, including an amplification of muscle tension, heart rate, and negative thinking, and a marked reduction in focus. As a result, we’re likely to make further mistakes.
When we take the positive path, our mind and body quickly return to an ideal performance state, where we’re sufficiently relaxed yet highly focused. A state of being that gives us greater opportunity for executing our skills to the best of our ability.
The power of habit
So how we do we travel down the positive pathway? One word – habit. Our habits have a powerful influence over our actions and reactions, and therefore our outcomes, so it’s important that we shape these habits through consciously and consistently implementing a positive and effective routine.
Our aim should be to create a routine that becomes automatic, so that when we make a mistake, we’ll be in the habit of tracking down the positive path. Similar to any skill, the more we practice, the more efficient we become. Therefore it’s critical that we practice our routine in training, so that we’re able to apply it automatically during competition.
There are three key elements that make up an effective post-mistake routine…
The routine needs to be implemented immediately after making a mistake, so that we don’t have time to dwell on the error.
It should be simple to use, and easy to apply, at any time and in any situation.
What works for person A may not work for person B, so it’s essential that we build a routine that is right for us.
For example, some may use a physical routine, such as a batsman patting down divots on the pitch, or a golfer tossing up a few blades of grass in the air. Others may actively use positive cue words, like “Watch the ball,” or “Strong front arm.” Whilst a few may even smile or laugh, which is a surprisingly simple, yet highly effective, natural mechanism to shift mood and focus.
It’s not so important as to what the actual routine is, more it’s how easily and quickly it enables us to return our focus back to the task at hand. Essentially, when we go down the negative path our focus is on the past, fixated on the mistake we’ve made. When on the positive path, we stay in the here and now, and it’s this ability to re-focus that strengthens our chance of rebounding from the mistake.
Would you like to support my writing? Click here to find out more