7 Ways to Bounce Back After a Mistake

UPDATED: February 12, 2021
PUBLISHED: November 16, 2016

Mistakes—especially the ones that make us cringe long after they’ve happened—can make us feel as if we’ve taken one step forward only to take 20 steps backward. We can cripple ourselves analyzing why we made the mistake, our mind tricking us into thinking it’s irreversible, that we can’t move past this.

But good news: You can. So many mistakes are never as bad as they seem.

We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council how they deal with mistakes and how they learn to move past them to do better in the future. Here’s what they had to say.

Related: How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes

1. Think about why you made the mistake.

When I make a mistake, I assess the mental and emotional state that led up to the decision. In some cases, I realize that I made the decision out of fear. If that’s the case, I dive into what generated that fear and build a mental model around the emotion. I take the time to reflect on it with the hope that I’ll recognize that emotion in the future and prevent it from affecting my day.

Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Doorbell

2. Regroup.

Mistakes are inevitable. They happen to everyone. When I make a mistake, I use it as a time to reflect and regroup. Depending on what’s going on, it might mean stepping away from my desk for lunch, taking a day off or scheduling a vacation. The time away gives me an opportunity to let go of my initial emotion and start thinking about what I can do differently next time to achieve different results.

Amber Anderson, MORE

3. Don’t let emotions get in the way.

I believe the key is not letting emotion get in the way. Problems are often much bigger in our minds than they are in reality. Instead of wallowing on the mistake you’ve made, focus on what you can do to correct the issue. You will begin to feel better when you start doing things to address the issue and feel like you are back in control.

—Matthew Paulson, MarketBeat.com (American Consumer News, LLC)

4. Move on.

Unless the mistake is catastrophic, I’m normally just focused on the next task in the queue (which might be fixing the mistake). After a lot of catastrophic-seeming mistakes, I’ve come to realize that few mistakes are irreversible.

—Hongwei Liu, mappedin

5. Look for a positive outcome.

Mistakes are going to happen and we cannot live life in fear of mistakes. When mistakes do happen, it’s important to think about why that mistake happened and learn how to avoid making it again. It’s also important to find a positive outcome that came from making that mistake. Bouncing back is hard, but you bounce back with more experience than before.

—Shalyn Dever, Chatter Buzz

6. Make it right.

I cannot “bounce back” without righting the wrong—at least as much as possible. This means going to the person who was affected by my mistake and owning it. It also means, where appropriate, owning the mistake publicly as well.

—Kevin Conner, WireSeek

7. Make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The worst mistake in business (and in life) is one that you’re repeating. Don’t repeat the same mistake twice; make sure to not only learn from your mistakes but implement processes and have discussions with your team to ensure they don’t happen again. Also, don’t dwell on it; we all make mistakes. Positive thinking goes a long way.

—Anshey Bhatia, Verbal+Visual

Related: 7 Mistakes Successful People Don’t Make Again

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.