Don’t Beat Yourself Up, Unnecessarily

This is the seventh in a series of posts about the lessons I wish I’d learned earlier in life.There’s a (big) difference between beating yourself up and being honest with yourself. The problem is, most of us choose to beat ourselves up more than we should – it’s all in the language we use.

Sometimes we get down on ourselves for “slacking off” or procrastinating, when in reality we are thinking through a tough decision. In The Procrastinator’s Guide to Success, author Lynn Lively reassuringly notes that if you feel uncertain, confused, overwhelmed, and clueless on how to proceed (we all have those moments!), then you’re not procrastinating; you’re a person who is considering options in order to make the best possible decision. Starting to feel better about yourself yet?

If you spend a little time putting a positive spin on all your actions, it will become second nature, and you’ll soon find that you’re more productive. How, you ask? Think of it this way: Every moment you spend worrying about the past is a moment you could spend learning from your mistakes so that you can become a better (and more successful) person.

We could all take a lesson from Thomas Edison, who struggled through more than 10,000 unsuccessful attempts to create the first light bulb before he finally got it right. Imagine if he’d wasted his time dwelling on his so-called “failures” or (even worse) if he’d called himself a failure and given up; who knows how long mankind would’ve been left in the dark.

So the next time you hit a stumbling block, note what went wrong, make the appropriate changes, and celebrate the fact that you’re one step closer to your goal.

As Jack Welch put it:

Don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong some of the time, especially when you’re starting out. Just remember, it’s your mistake to fix.

And that’s the key: As long as you recognize the mistake and take action to correct it, move on. Life’s too short to beat yourself up anyways.

How you can make this work for you: Take a good, hard look at a recent mistake that you’re beating yourself up over. Instead of focusing on the negative, stop and think about the good that came from the experience. Did you walk away with a better understanding of how to handle a similar situation the next time it rolls around? Did you learn a new skill? Look for the silver lining, and commit yourself to taking something positive from everything you do.