Whenever I am called on to ďperformĒ whether itís attending a networking party, doing a reading for my book, or going on a job interview itís pretty much guaranteed that as soon as itís over and Iím my way home Iíll spend the entire train ride kicking myself for what I said or didnít say. Iíll relive all of my verbal snafus over and over. Speaking is not like writing where you can backspace and edit and rewrite before you let the words go.
While I know itís a complete waste to spend time wishing I could change past events, still I do it anyway. Iíve had to accept the idea that rumination is perhaps a permanent part of my internal makeup. Itís a reflex, an automatic response. I *know* itís going to happen, so my job is to free myself from the tenacious grip of these thoughts as quickly as possible.
Here are a few methods Iíve used to regain my bearings when things go wrong:
--Look forward to the next opportunity. A friend of mineóa master dancerótells her students that when they make a mistake in a performance that they should always take a breath and pick up where they can in the next opening. She tells them to never just stop completely.
---Be mindful. ďStaying in the moment is in fact a discipline,Ē writes Dr. Don Greene in his book Fight Your Fear and Win. ďThe major damage from a mistake results from itís power to steal you from the presentÖItís critical for your to develop presence, or the ability to focus beyond any distraction that might pull you in.Ē So after an unnerving social experience or performance I just remind myself that no matter what itís over. I lived through it and Iím free!
--Keep it to yourself. Itís okay to tell one trusted friend about your mistake but donít spend too much time marinating in negative thoughts. When I was my twenties after a bad day I would make a bee-line to the phone that night and call at least two friends to retell the story over and over. I realize now, this only served to prolong my agony.
--Get perspective. Was it really all that bad? Chances are others have forgotten about your mistake long before you do.
--Try to find some humor in the situation if you can. Itís like Milton Berle said, laughter is an instant vacation.
--Be grateful for the good in the situation. Recently I was interviewed on the radio. While I did my best, I wasnít particularly happy with my performance. When I hung up the phone, I just sent up a little prayer of thanks. Maybe I wasnít brilliant, but considering how nervous I was, I was just glad that when I opened my mouth words came out.
--Distract yourself. If I feel that Iíve made a mistake in one area of my life, I just focus on an unrelated project until the bad feelings go away. And eventually they always, always go away.
--Accept the situation. Mistakes are going to happen, after all weíre only human.