• Daniel Bowman PhD

Letting Go of Mistakes

Whether you're trying to succeed in sports, stock-trading, business, weight loss, or life, it's easy to fixate on a mistake and become anxious, angry or discouraged. However, fixating on mistakes shuts down your mind and makes you more prone to make even more mistakes. Learning how to let go of mistakes is one of the best things you can do to improve your performances and your life.

How do you let go of mistakes? First be honest but kind with yourself. Ask yourself, do I know what did I to cause this mistake? Did you swing at a pitch well outside of the strike zone? Did you invest in a company that had too much debt? Did you fail to have a plan to eat wisely while traveling? If you can't determine the cause of your mistake, see if an expert can. Sometimes, you won't have much time to analyze your mistake because, perhaps, you are about to face the next pitch, but at some point try to see if you can determine the cause of your mistake and follow a plan to correct it.

A number of times in stock investing, I invested in companies that had too much debt, even though they appeared undervalued. This usually led to a poor investment. When you make a mistake and have a chance to analyze it, see if you can see other mistakes you have made to it that are similar. Determine if there is an underlying theme to your mistakes that you can change. Other examples of mistake trends or themes I have seen are people overeating when they drink too much alcohol or performing poorly with a baseball, softball, or golf swing when they are too tense. See the following video from a recent talk I gave to golfers about letting go of tension in their golf swing. The same video applies to a baseball and softball swing and to staying loose in life.

When you tense up from either making a mistake or having a fear of failure, then you perform worse. To perform at your best you need a high level of arousal, but you have to be loose and relaxed (see my post in this blog about getting in the zone). Relaxation is nothing that you make happen, it's what you allow to happen by letting go of tension (also see my post in this blog on using mindfulness to improve performance). Let go of tension in your face, in your hands, and in your mind and you will improve you performance greatly. The great martial artist Bruce Lee said he succeeded by learning to flow like water.

Finally, develop an image or phrase to let go of mistakes. One mental coach gave baseball players miniature, toy toilets to remember to flush away their mistakes. They went on to win the college world series that year and had a miniature toy toilet in their dugout. Building on this theme, another mental coach wrote a book for baseball and softball players called "So What, Next Pitch." The title says it all. You can't attach to mistakes. "So what, next stock." "So what, next day." Keep loose, keep learning, keep trying, and let go of your mistakes, and you will surely find success.