Often overlooked is one of the most important business tools for success, forgiving yourself. There are times when you make mistakes, bad decisions, underperform or hurt others. These failures are a normal part of life and striving to be successful. 

In business, the repercussions of failures are swift. Clients are lost, partnerships broken, careers hurt and prestige damaged. If you allow them, they can pile up like wrecked cars in your mind. They affect your performance moving forward and can haunt you far after you retire. 

It’s important to learn the art of forgiving yourself. Doing so, frees you to move forward and build new bridges for success. How to forgive yourself is a learned skill. There is much that has been written about this. Here are some of those suggestions together with my thoughts. 

Clear the Debris:  Peel away the circumstances, other people involved and emotions from the event. Realize that in the end analysis, the failure was yours. Ironically, it is far easier to forgive others for their failures than to forgive ourselves. The reason is we live with our own failures. Often, we make them larger than they are because we attach circumstances and emotions to them. A key to forgiving yourself is to isolate your actions that led to the failure.

Learning:  Once you clear away the debris, the failure can be evaluated objectively. Learning can take place. Learning that will prevent similar mistakes from taking place in the future. To enhance this, you can replay the event in your mind using what you have learned. A far better memory to hold on to than the failure.

Cut Away Evil Spirits: Some failures involve misbehavior or hurting others. These can range from stupid actions resulting from the impertinence of youth, bravado or taking advantage of a person. These tend to be long lasting memories. The good news is that there can be opportunity to cut those evils spirits away. The formula is simple, apologize or make amends when possible. You may run into a person hurt by your misdeeds. Take time to approach them, revisiting the situation, acknowledging your misdeed and apologizing. They will likely accept it and you will feel better for the effort. 

Openness:  Bringing failures out in the open is a great technique for releasing them. This can take the form of talking with others you trust about them or journaling. These methods add valuable insights from the thoughts of others and your own analysis. Listing your failures in a journal with columns for the emotions you feel, the circumstances and what you learned sets the stage to banish the impact of these events. 

Realistic Expectations:  Some failures are just due to your inexperience or lack of resources at the time they occurred. We are all guilty of attaching unrealistic expectations to our performance. Don’t let them hinder the learning that can take place from the failure. Move forward with the knowledge that with the added experience you are more equipped to handle a similar situation in the future.

Don’t Play Old Movies:  When failures start to replay in your mind. Hit the stop button and use the methods above to understand them and set their burden free. The amount of energy used in reliving failures over and over again is better spent on repairing the damage and making things right.

Keep them in Context:  It’s also important to put failures in context. How much did they really affect your life? Have you had success despite them? Don’t give them any more importance than they really are. It’s far better to hold on to your wins and replay them. Always remember we all have failures; it's how you handle them that is important. 

Forgiveness is an art form not a science. It won’t always work as completely as you want. Some failures just won’t let go. Still, using the methods above sets you free from most of them and makes the few remaining smaller events. It’s not only about performing more successfully in the future but also about achieving peace of mind. The greatest of all successes.

David Young

12 Ways to Forgive Yourself for a Past Mistake by Ellen Michaud
How to Forgive Yourself -
Learning to Forgive Yourself - by Jean Lawrence
How to Forgive Yourself and Move on from the Past -