Dwelling on past mistakes is a huge waste of energy and a sure way to keep you stuck, filled with resentment and judgement. But how exactly do you let go of past mistakes? Every situation in life, including disappointing ones, is there to teach you something. So, stop beating yourself up.
Let’s turn your past mistakes into opportunities for growth and positive change instead. It’s a sure way to get you energized and moving forward with your career and life goals. Slide to the edge of your chair. Get ready to learn how to let go of past mistakes!
Let Go of Past Mistakes STEP 1: NOTICE YOUR REGRETS
First off, let’s take an inventory of your regrets. How do you know you are dwelling on past mistakes? Here are a few typical regret thought patterns:
“I should have known better.”
“I shouldn’t have done that.”
“If only I had made a better decision in the past, I would be in a better place by now.”
“Why didn’t I see that coming?”
When we are stuck in these kinds of thoughts, we are really buying into some old limiting beliefs. One of the most common themes of regret I witness, as a career coach, circles around not having completed university or college. “If only I had finished my degree, I would have better career options now.”
Before you read any further, take note of regret thoughts circling in your mind and jot them down.
Let Go of Past Mistakes STEP 2: GET CURIOUS
Now it’s time to get curious. When we investigate ‘mistakes’ with curiosity, we make all kinds of interesting discoveries. A question I like to ask my career coaching clients is: “What did you think at the time, when you left university/college?”
This question invariably reveals perfectly valid reasons, such as:
“I didn’t like the university/program/learning environment.”
“I wanted to get some real life experience and work or travel the world instead.”
“I didn’t know what I wanted to study at the time.”
“School was really hard on me. I had a hard time concentrating and nothing came easy to me.”
“My parents told me to go to university and I rebelled.”
Before reading any further, ask yourself the question: “What did I think at the time, when I ……. (insert the specific decision you made that you now regret)?
Then answer your own question. There may be several reasons. Write them all down.
Let Go of Past Mistakes STEP 4: REFRAME
Now that you are in touch with the true reasons that motivated you at the time, you can see how valid your decision was at the time. You may realize that you made the best decision you could with the level of information, awareness and experience you had at the time.
Next I investigate the following question with my career coaching clients: “What did you do instead of continuing with university?”
When my clients get in touch with the choices they made, instead of focusing on the things they didn’t do, the energy shifts in the coaching conversation.
Here are some of my career coaching clients’ answers:
“I travelled to Europe and learned so much about myself and the world.”
“I found a job, rented my first apartment from my own money. I felt really independent.”
“I travelled to Asia to teach English. It really opened my eyes to different ways of thinking. I began to meditate and learned a lot about eastern traditions.”
Before reading any further, ask yourself: “What did I do instead of …(insert decision you regret)?”
Answer your own question. There may be several things you did instead. Write them all down. Pay attention to all the things you learned and how you grew from your choices.
Let Go of Past Mistakes STEP 4: RECOGNIZE YOUR VALUES
In coaching we then investigate together the values my clients were honouring with their decision. “What did that bring to you?” and “What about that did you enjoy?” are questions that help reveal core values such as freedom, self-actualization, independence and learning.
When my clients realize that they were honouring their own values in leaving school and doing something else instead, they can finally let that regret go. Many describe it as a big heavy weight lifting off their shoulders, or a dark cloak of shame falling off them. They now stand with confidence, knowing that they made the best choice at the time, and so can you.
Take a moment to investigate the core values you were honouring with your decision. Ask yourself: “What did that bring to me?” and “What about that did I enjoy?” Dig for single words with these questions. These are your core values and they most likely still matter deeply to you now.
Now that you have learnt how to let go of past mistakes, you are ready for positive change. Go ahead and request your free career clarity consultation. Together we’ll explore how to positively transform your career to align with your core values.
Julia James is a certified life coach and award-winning author of the book, The Mini-Retreat Solution. With over ten years experience coaching people through positive career transformations, Julia is passionate about helping people connect with their true calling.