From Oops to Awesome: How Mistakes Can Make or Break You

The sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. That goal or dream that requires you to reach down deep, to fight with everything you’ve got. And in that moment of reaching you don’t know if your best will be enough.

It’s not the failures that are in the history books, the novels, the adventure tales… except when that failure is a stepping stone toward success down the line. Those we call cliff-hangers. You know the ones, right? The hero risks everything to hang off the ledge – literally – in order to accomplish the goal. (But can she hold on long enough? Will she be found out? Plummet to her demise? Tune in next week…) She always does make it, you know – after getting bumped and bruised, learning along the way. Victory prevails!

I like to look the process as going from Oops to Awesome.

Edison is a great example. It’s told it took 1000 tries to invent the lightbulb. But did he fail 999 times? He told a reporter once that none of those were failures – that the lightbulb was an invention with 1000 steps.

But sometimes the oops gets us stuck – keeps from even attempting to start. Why? Because failure stinks. It feels crappy to not succeed and failure often evokes feelings of shame, embarrassment, self-doubt, anger. Have you been there? It can be paralyzing.

So we play small, avoid the potential failure, live within the scope of the “known”. It’s comfortable, after all. Familiar, even. Or is it?

Research tells us that avoiding mistakes, setbacks and failures actually has lasting negative effects. When we don’t risk we wind up with low self-esteem, crumby self-confidence, shameful self-talk. AND we tend to wile away the hours numbing out (alcohol, Facebook, binge watching Netflix).

Interesting that the effects of avoiding trying are the VERY thing we hoped to dodge in not taking the risk in the first place, isn’t it?

Failure is life’s greatest teacher, and if you adopt that frame of mind there’s a huge opportunity to make mistakes the stepping stones toward success. Taking oops to awesome is actually a simple tweak. It’s all about talking to yourself kindly when you do experience mistakes, setbacks or failures. It’s the difference between hitting or hugging yourself when things don’t go according to plan.

Here are 3 simple steps to make friends with your failures, setbacks, and mistakes:

  1. Expect to make mistakes and admit them. Once you flop, own it. Sound the ta-daa trumpets in your head (I like to do this out loud) – bow even. This de-shames the whole thing. And taking the shame out of the equation allows space to learn from the mistake. Avoid this step and you’re apt to get stuck in procrastination, self-doubt, and other patterns of avoidance. Operating from these places really wastes your time, and this eats away at your self-esteem, leading to a small life, or worse, giving up on your goals. Instead of spinning your wheels in denial and avoidance, now you have admitted it and you are ready to learn from it.
  2. Adopt a positive mindset. A positive mindset doesn’t mean you’re not uncomfortable about the mistake. It’s legit to feel a wide range of emotions! But try on a more positive spin. Mistakes are a form of practice. If you were learning to ride a bike you wouldn’t be harsh on yourself for being wobbly your first try.
  3. Let go and move on. Move on from the mistake ultimately with compassion and celebration. Remember it’s ok to have your feelings about your mistakes, honor your feelings! Talk about it. Friends are a great place to talk about setbacks. And talking about it normalizes it. You will probably find out you’re not alone in making a mistake, which might give you perspective. A supportive community will also offer ideas and suggestions on how you can pivot toward success.

We can’t escape mistakes or failure. But we do have a choice of how we look at the experience. Every successful person is someone who has failed before. But the magic is that they refuse to regard their failure as fatal.

Will you remember the famous men who have to fall and then rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. – Sinatra


  • Michelle says:

    “When we don’t risk we wind up with low self-esteem, crumby self-confidence, shameful self-talk. AND we tend to wile away the hours numbing out (alcohol, Facebook, binge watching Netflix).” WOW! That is so powerful and soooooo TRUE!! Maybe the new Diet should be to take risks!!! I LOVE taking ooops to awesome!! You so rock, Sherrie!

    • sherrietoews says:

      Thanks Michelle, I’m glad this resonated with you! Let me know how the risk taking Diet works 🙂

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