Screw-ups, Fresh Starts & Comebacks

Have you ever screwed up and not followed through on a self-pledge? We all have, many times, and we are likely to continue, right? If that’s so, consider this. Wouldn’t it be a better strategy to give up on perfection and simply allow the screw-ups to occur? If we could do that without being so hard on ourselves, we’d be more fulfilled, waste less time and be far more productive.

Trust builds when agreements are honored. Thus it’s our self-trust that takes the biggest hit when we don’t follow-through as promised. So we need to trust ourselves once more to comeback from this temporary breach of reliability.

When we screw-up we can either change what occurred so that we don’t make the same mistake again or we can change how we feel about making mistakes. I find the latter to be just as effective and far easier to pull off.

Please get this. It’s not the mistake that derails you. It’s how you feel about letting yourself down. Since you admit that you are too hard on yourself, what might happen if you simply cut yourself some slack?

I’d like to introduce you to a couple of words and their definitions that you may have forgotten.

Forgive – to cease to feel resentment about.

Absolve – to free from guilt or blame or their consequences.

Have you forgotten that you have the power to self-forgive and to self-absolve? It’s often a necessary step before we can get ourselves back on track. I really want you to know a few things.

There is no limit to the number of fresh starts you can make. You can always begin again. As a coach, I often ask clients to give themselves permission to forget about past misses and begin anew. Absolve yourself. Let it go. Recognize the futility of holding onto the mistake and its accompanying guilt. Start over. Take a Mulligan.

If you take yourself too seriously, lighten up and praise your good. Most of us tend to overplay our misses and under-recognize our hits. You do a lot of things right, don’t you? Who sees those? Whose job is it to make sure they get duly noted and celebrated? Perhaps if you spent more time recognizing your progress and all the things you do well, you would no longer need to be so self-judgmental.

Know that making a mistake is not an indication that anything is wrong with you or fundamentally lacking in your makeup.
As kids, many of us had adults place the “what’s wrong with you?” curse on us. Know and act on the basis that nothing is wrong with you. You are a child of God who occasionally misses the mark. So what, who doesn’t?

Sometimes when you disappoint and do not follow through, it means nothing. It could mean that you just screwed up. Perhaps in your enthusiasm you simply over-promised. Perhaps other priorities and/or opportunities entered the picture.

Mistakes are simply attempts that missed the mark. Lighten up. Start over. Forgive yourself. Let go of the misstep. Shrug it off. Release those guilty thoughts.

Mistakes are inevitable and without them we would have no feedback for course corrections and adjustments. If you’ve made a mistake, it’s already in your past. It’s behind you, so allow it to remain there.

You can come back from anything. Clear the air. Forgive yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself a break. Love yourself. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Begin anew. Life wants you to win.


  1. Fawn Chang says:

    Wow! I love the definitions, they make life so clear. Forgive and absolve. I also love that we get to do it ourselves, that is beautiful and feels so powerful and good.

    I teach my sons what Edison said, “I didn’t fail, I just found the 10,000 things that didn’t work.” Hazahhh! Seems like now I get to teach myself.

    Thank you again, Obi Won. Fawn.
    PS How do I get the little smiley faces? 🙂

  2. Fawn Chang says:

    OH, wow, just like the Universe, ask and you shall receive…:)

  3. Tom, a lovely reminder to take a relaxed approach to life, summed up perfectly in your last paragraph!

    It’s also worth remembering that sometimes what we initially think to be a ‘mistake’ turns out to be far better than what we initially intended. We may miss the moon, but instead find ourselves amongst the stars 🙂

  4. PS, I just realised you have a tiny little smiley face right at the bottom of your page – what a fun thing to ‘discover’! Many smiles right back at ya 🙂

  5. Kenneth King | Destiny Building says:

    What a wonderful article Tom! My favorite of yours that I’ve read so far. So much guilt and self loathing can be avoided if people can only learn to heed advice like this. Life truly is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Most of the time I try to subvert the negative thoughts with different mantras related to failing. Some of my favorites:

    You can’t look forward and back at the same time. Which one actually advances your goals?

    It’s not that you missed the target – you just hit the wrong one.

    If you don’t fail every now and again, you’re not trying hard enough.

    Or, my favorite: “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving — we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it — but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

    The first one get me by most of the time – there’s nothing you can do to change the past, so figured out how you made the mistake, correct the process, and move on. Sometimes it takes other activities (usually playing the guitar) for me to stop the occurent thoughts about the failures, though.

    Sorry for the ramble…

  7. We could all fair a little better by lightening up.

    Having the courage to try new things and honor new commitments is
    a worthy adventure. Sometimes we knock it out of the park and
    other times we lay down by our dish.

    Thanks for another fine life balance lesson.

    I absolve myself from looking back and second guessing my decisions … 🙂

  8. jonathanmead says:

    Tom, this is a wonderful article. One of the best I’ve read in a while.

    It takes courage to forgive yourself and live without regret. We have an image of perfection in our mind that makes us feel the need to judge and punish ourselves. When we realize the same voice that created our action is the same voice that is punishing us, we can realize this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Realizing this is one thing though. We must have the courage to make this a part of our life and break all our old self-deflating agreements.

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s exactly what I needed to hear right now.


  9. Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map says:

    Hello Tom,

    It took me a long time to realise the importance of forgiveness. Not taking myself too seriously also helps!! I’ve never been happier since 🙂

    You’ve got advice here that I would definitely recommend to anyone!


  10. Tom, love this article. It’s as though you wrote this one for me; I screw up all the time … 🙂



  11. We all need to step back and take the time to renew our thoughts after a misstep. It’s hard for anyone to do, me included. We feel the need to punish ourselves so we don’t make the same mistake again.

    When you take the time to appreciate the good work that you do this creates a positive mindset which helps encourage a fresh start. I’m still learning to do this, but when it works it’s a great feeling.

  12. I choose to look at mistakes as challenges. Challenges are exciting and don’t have the negative connotation that the word mistake has. Challenges aren’t going down the wrong path, they are just little detours that teach us so much more about Life and ourselves. Challenges are good because they teach us things we might not learn otherwise. Without detours, how do you know that you are still on the Path that you want to take?

    Great article, Tom. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about mistakes and forgiveness. Challenges add richness to our lives. Forgiveness adds knowledge of self and compassion to our lives. Have a glorious day.

  13. Mags that’s excellent wisdom on how to look at a mistake and it’s not woo-woo at all. 🙂

    Fawn yes self-absolution is gloriously rich and satisfying because it confirms that it’s all up to us. We make up our worlds so we might as well clean them up to suit us.

    Charlie welcome man thanks so much for sharing your excellent tips. I really like their clarity and power especially the Holmes quote.

    Kenneth yes life is beautiful. Your comment made me think of the movie of the same name. That put a smile on my face, thank you.

    Shann absolution from second-guessing – life with no regrets, outstanding!

    Jonathan thanks so much man; I’m very happy you enjoyed it. Realizing that the enemy we are the enemy of graceful living is very astute of you.

    Evelyn scores another one for lightening up and forgiveness. Readers see what Evelyn said – forgiveness and lightening up made her happier.

    Louise I’m right there with you. I screw-up almost daily. That’s why I have so many tools to feel better about it.

    Karl is that where punishment comes from? As an answer to not make the same mistake again. Well I bet that really doesn’t work.
    Yes you are correct; making a fresh start both emotionally and mentally feels wonderful.

    Patricia thanks for that perspective of mistakes as challenges. Yes negative connotations are very interesting. Some folks have no problem with the word mistakes. But since you do it is very wise of you to use another word. I once new a guy who called all problems, projects instead. It worked for him. Language is so powerful. I have a post coming up on specific suggestions for more life-giving language.

  14. Tim Brownson says:

    I don’t want to appear to be pedantic at Mags, but if you miss the moon you’re not going to end up in the stars. They’re a lot further away, at least 150 miles maybe even further would be my guess. You’ll maybe end up in France or Northern Italy or somewhere similar, which I guess aren’t bad places to be.

    “When we screw-up we can either change what occurred so that we don’t make the same mistake again or we can change how we feel about making mistakes”

    Or maybe even both. Change how you feel about it whilst doing your best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Reframe your misses until you keep hitting and then you don’t need to bother.

  15. Tom,

    Great reminder to us all! I had a client ask me, “If I’m trying to be 100% responsible for my life, why are you telling me to give myself a break?” I had to explain that you can actually do both…at the same time. 🙂 We’re still working on it. 🙂


  16. Great point, Tom, that it is not about the mistake but how we perceive ourselves in the process.
    I like the idea that mistakes are missed attempts and that we should at least congratulate ourselves for making an attempt.
    Thanks for another well written article,

  17. Tim yes we can both change how we feel and do our best to make the changes so the same kind of mistake doesn’t re-occur. In fact that probably is the better way to go about it. Thank you.

    Suzanne I would have laughed at your comment without the smiley faces. Only because I’ve been there with clients many times myself and it’s amazing how they equate responsibility with punishment of some sort.

    Readers check out Suzanne’s post on mistakes made with others.

    Katie thanks for pointing that out. There is nothing wrong with a missed attempt. It happens all the time and is indeed a natural part of life. I also like your perspective on how we view ourselves. Let’s all cut ourselves some slack today.

  18. You’re so right Tom, the moment we stop hosing ourself our lives change. But it is a hard thing to do, we are so used testing and judging ourselves.

    When I detect I’m doing it again, I listen to the wonderful silence between 2 thoughts. It’s such an inspiring and beautiful place to be.

    Love and Peace, Ronny

  19. Susan Rolniak says:

    Wow! Beautifully written, Tom, and the timing was just perfect! Unconditional love –it’s not only for others, but also for ourselves.
    With gratitude for all of your inspirations,

  20. Ronny thanks for stopping by and thank you for the reminder to pause and listen to the silence. You’re right, that always works well.

    Susan well said. Unconditional self-love is a beautiful prescription. Let’s all simply love ourselves unconditionally regardless of what we have and have not done. That would make quite the world, wouldn’t it?

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