‘Double trouble’ and how to avoid it

Find the alternative

Do you – like me – feel the sting of making a mistake more powerfully than the joy of doing something well? We may glibly say ‘everyone makes mistakes’. But when it comes to realising that we have made a mistake, I suspect that most of us are far less forgiving of ourselves than others.

Psychologists speak of a negative bias, meaning we register and dwell on the negative more readily than the positive. We become fixated on our mistakes.

When we become fixated, we cause ourselves a ‘double trouble’: our self-talk is ‘I’m such an idiot’ and then we amplify it, with self-talk such as ‘I’m never going to get anything right.’ This negative spiral isn’t helpful.

So what’s the alternative?

  1. We can recognise that we may have a tendency to a negative bias. The recognition alone puts us in a better place to respond in a more useful way. It isn’t that we want to have a rose-tinted view, it’s just that we don’t want to over-emphasise the negative.
  2. When we make a mistake (cos we all do make ‘em), acknowledge it simply: ‘I got that wrong’. Where others are involved, we may need to apologise or rectify the mistake in some way.
  3. Now we are not wasting our energies on repeatedly beating ourselves up, we can turn our energies instead to exploring what we can learn from that mistake. Is there something we can put in place to stop ourselves repeating it?
  4. Finally, re-dress the balance in your thinking. Identify something you have done well. This isn’t ignoring the mistake. It’s about giving extra attention to good things you have done. Without making an effort to recall the positive, the negative will win out!

This is Mindful Monday on 10 May 2021.

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