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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Don’t Panic! 5 Things To Do When You’ve Messed Up

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Don’t Panic! 5 Things To Do When You’ve Messed Up

Mistakes. We’ve all certainly made a few in our time, and the idea of committing them is never a pleasant concept. The point is that we often screw up — sometimes badly. Maybe you said the wrong thing in the heat of the moment, or did something you never would have if not for your emotional state. We’ve all been there, and it’s agonizing. The key, really, is figuring out what to do after the deed.

It’s not the end of the world if you’ve behaved badly, but you will you be treated and judged by how you handle the aftermath. If you’ve messed up at work or dropped a bit of a misfire in the home realm, then check out this quick-fire guide to five of the best things to do when you’ve screwed up.

1. Apologize immediately.

Saying “sorry” really is the best policy when it comes to committing a screw-up of any magnitude. Staying indifferent is insulting and implies that you don’t even care, which comes across as deeply rude. Therefore, you should apologize immediately to the parties concerned.

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You might have to eat a bit of humble pie at one point or another, but that’s the price that comes with being less than perfect. Choosing to select the more honorable route and apologize for your mistakes might be more awkward than burying your head in the sand and walking away, but it will also earn you respect, friends, forgiveness, and self-esteem. So when you’ve screwed up, apologize sincerely, and get right back to work.

2. Get some perspective and a reality check.

One of the most important things to do when you’ve screwed up is to take a step back and gain some perspective and/or a reality check on the situation. Hopefully, the situation you’ve just instigated isn’t too serious (i.e. something that will result in a stint in criminal court or your family never speaking to you again), and if so, it helps to try to logically and objectively evaluate what you’ve done.

If your screw-up is fixable, that’s something to be grateful for. And while it might have an effect on the people you care about or work with or spend time with, you can probably resolve this problem. Chances are you haven’t killed anyone, ruined anyone’s life, or caused anyone major distress. As the great philosopher Cicero said, “Dum spiro spero” which means, “While I breathe, I hope.”

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3. Make sure it doesn’t happen again by crafting a plan.

It’s okay to make mistakes; everyone screws up once in a while (yes, even that picture-perfect, sweet-as-pie girl in the office or that immaculately put-together guy down the street). The point is that screwing up is inevitable, but it’s what we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again that really matters in the long term. Basically? Make a plan.

Decide exactly what you did wrong, and really think about what you can do in the future to help prevent that from happening again. Learn something, remember something, put something into place — make a concerted effort. After you’ve sorted your plan out, go to the person who you offended or affected with your screw-up, tell them what you’re going to do to prevent it from ever happening again, and then let the chips fall where they may. It’s human to make mistakes, but what makes you a great person is how you recover from them and ensure that you never hurt the same person like that again.

4. Take a break.

One of the best things to do is to get yourself out of the environment in which the mistake occurred, to stop your mind from dwelling on the situation. Staying in that immediate environment and muling over the mistake you made is only going to cause you to lose your focus, drop your ability to work and live in that situation, and end up in a shame spiral.

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Go and take a breather; get yourself out of that office, or home, or wherever, and take a walk somewhere. Get yourself out of that negative headspace that will continue to haunt your mind and affect your ability to be a normal, functioning human being. Take a solid 15 minutes to gather your energy and strengths, and make your plan.

5. Be kind to yourself.

Finally, practice a bit of self-compassion following a moment of guilt and sadness over a mistake. In a world where we’re expected to be flawless human beings with physical perfection and ideal lives, the idea of screwing up seems almost horrific. It isn’t. You’re human. It’s okay to mess up.

Don’t go beating yourself up, and and don’t dwell on your mistake to the point of it having a detrimental effect on your mental health or your ability to be yourself around friends, coworkers, and loved ones. They’re human too, and the vast majority of people will readily help you recover and allow you to sincerely apologize. Take a deep breath, try to calm yourself down, and remember that it isn’t the end of the world. You can always start again, and when your head hits the pillow, just remember Scarlett O’Hara’s classic, life-affirming adage, “After all… tomorrow’s another day!”

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Featured photo credit: Trym Nilsen via unsplash.com

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on January 19, 2022

What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

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What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

If you’ve ever thought or said something like this, then you are using fear-based motivation:

  • “If I don’t get that promotion, I’m going to be seen as a failure so I better stay up all night to work on this proposal.”
  • “If I speak up for school reform, the internet trolls are going to get me, so I better be quiet even though I care a lot about this issue.”
  • “If I don’t exercise enough, I’m going to look like crap, so I better go to the gym six days a week, even if my body is killing me.”

Fear-based motivation is exactly what it sounds like—getting yourself and others to do things out of fear of what will happen if you don’t do it and do it well.

What you might not know is that while fear-based motivation might work in the short term, it can have long-term detrimental effects on your performance, relationships, and well-being.

Is Fear-Based Motivation Helpful?

If using fear as motivation comes naturally for you, you aren’t alone. Our brains use fear to keep us out of trouble. Normally, you want to move away from what feels harmful towards what feels safe.

This brain function is important when there is a genuine threat to your well-being, like if there is a rattlesnake on the hiking trail. Your brain will use fear to motivate you to move away from the snake as quickly as possible. But when you use fear-based motivation to accomplish your life and career goals, the constant state of fear puts unnecessary stress on your mind and body and can end up working against you.

The Darkside of Fear-Based Motivation

Take, for example, when your trainer at your gym motivates you during your workout by yelling things like, “Bikini season is coming! You don’t want your cellulite to be the star of the show!” or “Burn off that piece of birthday cake you ate last night!”

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Sure, you might be motivated to do ten more burpees, but what is going on in the back of your mind? You probably have an image of a group of people standing around you at the beach laughing at you in your bikini, or you feel guilty about eating that piece of cake and criticize yourself for not being able to control yourself.

Reliance on Negative Thinking

For most of us, this type of thinking causes stress and can bring down our energy levels and mood. The reliance on negative thinking is the problem with fear-based motivation. It forces us to put our attention on what is wrong or what could go wrong instead of anticipating and celebrating what is right. This, in turn, narrows our focus and prevents us from seeing the bigger picture.

When your brain senses a threat, whether it’s a rattlesnake hiding in the grass or the possibility of being laughed at in your bikini, your brain will move you into a protective stance. Your vision narrows and you prepare to fight, flee or freeze.

You can probably imagine what this looks like in the case of a rattlesnake, but how does this impact your bikini experience?

The High Cost of Fear-Based Motivation

Imagine that you plan a beach vacation with your friends three months from now. The first thing you picture is sitting on the beach with your tummy rolls and cellulite. You immediately sign up for three months of boot camp classes at the gym and banish all sugar and booze from your diet. You are determined not to make a fool of yourself on the beach!

Will the fear of not looking like a supermodel under the beach umbrella motivate you to get in shape and eat better? Possibly. But at what cost?

For three months, every time you picture yourself looking “less than perfect” in your bikini, you feel fear of being ashamed. Shame makes you want to hide, and that makes it harder to find the motivation to go to the gym instead of sitting on the couch eating ice cream.

You become so focused on how you are going to look on the beach that you lose out on all the fun and joy of life. You pass up on going shopping with your friends for new outfits because you aren’t at your goal weight yet. You stop doing the things you love to do to spend more time at the gym. You avoid family gatherings where you will be confronted with tempting food. You over-train to the point of hurting yourself.

The Healthier Alternative to Fear-Based Motivation

Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in your bikini! If that’s important to you, keep your goal in mind but change the way you motivate yourself. Instead of using the fear of feeling ashamed to motivate you, try using love-based motivation.

Love-based motivation uses love instead of fear to lead and inspire you. It comes from a different part of your brain than fear-based motivation. Love-based motivation comes from the part of your brain that is responsible for joy, creativity, and passion.

5 Questions of Love-Based Motivation

There are many ways to deploy love-based motivation. The trick is to use one or all of the following to motivate you towards your goal: empathy, curiosity, innovation, vision, and heart-centered action.

Here are five questions you can use to motivate yourself using love-based motivation.

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1. What Would You Say to a Friend?

Chances are that you talk to your friends in a much kinder way and with more empathy than you talk to yourself. You wouldn’t tell a friend, “you better starve yourself and hit the gym three times a day to look good in that bikini!” Instead, you would probably say something like, “I’m so excited to go on this vacation with you! I can’t wait to spend time catching up while sipping margaritas on the beach.”

Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your friend.

2. What Are You Curious About Learning That Might Help You Get to Your Goal?

More often than not, achieving our goals is more about the journey it took us to get there than the goal itself. Curiosity makes journeys more fun. Perhaps you are curious about doing a triathlon but you don’t know how to run. If you spend three months learning to run, you would get into better shape and learn something new.

3. How Can You Get to Your Goal in a Way That Feels Good?

Using the “Yes, And” game is a great way to come up with innovative ideas for working towards your goals. If your first instinct is to go to the gym six days a week but you aren’t jazzed about it, find something that you like about that idea and make it better.

For example, if what you like about going to the gym is that you work up a sweat, what if instead of the gym, you join a dance class where you can learn some new moves to show off on your vacation?

4. What Is Important to You About Your Goal?

When you dig into your goal, chances are that you’ll find a deeper meaning. If your goal is to “look good in a bikini,” ask yourself why that’s important to you.

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For example, “I want to look good in my bikini because I want to have fun on vacation.” Then, ask yourself how much having fun on your vacation depends on how you look in your swimsuit.

5. What Heart-Centered Action Can You Take That Will Help You Reach Your Goal?

Whether your goal remains bikini-focused or changes to ways of having a good time on your vacation, choose an action that you can take that feels like it is coming from a place of love instead of fear.

For example, suggest to your friends that you take scuba diving classes as a group before vacation. It will get you moving and bring your friends together.

Long-Term Happiness and Satisfaction

Fear-based motivation may help you achieve your goals in the short term, but it won’t lead to long-term happiness and satisfaction. Fear isn’t designed to be used for long periods, and you will eventually tire of the fear and give up on your goals. Love, however, is designed for longevity.

Finding your motivation in a place of love will fuel you to reach your goals, whether your goals are about feeling good in a bikini, getting a promotion at work, or speaking up for what you believe in.

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Featured photo credit: Jeremy Perkins via unsplash.com

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