This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
Forgive yourself. It sounds simple, but don’t think for a second that it is easy. Getting free from the tyranny of past mistakes can be hard work, but definitely worth the effort. And the payoff is health, wholeness and inner peace. In other words, you get your life back.
– Steve Goodier
We’ve all messed up, even folks like Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi made mistakes. So why do screw-ups burden us so much? The burden can sometimes overwhelm us, change our perspective, create excess caution, and severely impact our leadership effectiveness.
Like everyone, I’ve had some doozies. Some are simply humorous or embarrassing, some I’m ashamed of, and some still make me cringe knowing how close I came to radically changing my life. Fortunately, I’ve always been able to move on fairly easily, sometimes perhaps too much so. As just one small example, nearly twenty years ago, I was hurrying through a store when I came up to an elderly woman blocking a narrow aisle. I moved around her a little too quickly and carelessly, nearly causing her to fall. I immediately felt remorse. To this day, I vividly remember the look on her face and on the faces of others around me, as well as how ashamed I felt. It was a mistake, but I couldn’t change it. I had to forgive myself and learn from the experience.
The past is the past. Nothing is going to change it. To be at peace, you must accept that you will make mistakes. Learn from them, remember them just enough so that you know not to repeat it, make amends if appropriate, and move on. If you knew of someone else that had your past, how would you treat them? Probably with compassion. Do the same to yourself.