The Pep Talk You Need if You Can’t Stop Thinking About a Mistake

Stop shoulding on yourself.

My mom’s a psychologist, so I’ve spent most of my childhood (and then adulthood) collecting her latest life advice, or, rather, her next big punchline. The most recent one?

“Stop shoulding on yourself, Alyse.”

Once I got past the confusing (and slightly humorous) nature of this comment, I realized what a powerful concept it was.

So can you guess how excited I was when I came across this exact phrase while scrolling through Medium? (I was very excited.)

In his article “How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Setback,” motivational speaker and life coach Jeff Crume explains the importance of letting go of our mistakes and mishaps and moving forward:

When we crash in life or experience major setbacks, we typically rewind instead of reset. We replay, from the beginning, all of the gory details drudging through the should-haves, would-haves, and could-haves…We waller in what went wrong while fantasizing about what it would have been like if we had just gotten it  right.

This is exactly what my mother meant whenever she stopped me mid-sentence from saying I “should have done” this or that. Sure, I wasn’t trying to actually go back and fix it, but even thinking about the endless possibilities just wasn’t healthy. For one thing, it was unproductive — moving up means moving forward. Second, it was defeatist. I was making myself feel bad for something that already happened and that I ultimately could no longer control.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t reflect on what went wrong this time, but rather, that when you’re dealing with a minor issue, you should focus on what you learned and how that’ll translate into the next time.

So when you hear yourself saying something like, “I should’ve caught that mistake on the presentation slide” or “I shouldn’t have said that to my manager,” catch yourself and rephrase for the future. It could look like this: “At least they didn’t notice my mistake, I’ll be more careful on my next presentation.” Or it could look like this: “During our next meeting, I’ll word my feedback differently so it goes over better with my boss.” See, no need to dive into everything you should’ve done at all.

This small switch in how you look at your mistakes has the ability to turn any setback into an important learning experience.

You can thank my mother.

Originally published at on January 19, 2017.

Originally published at

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