My client Jill’s voice shook as she half-shouted over the phone, “How can I ever trust myself again? I am so pissed. I spent a ton of money on a marketing consultant who turned out to be a fraud and I have nothing to show for it.
“And now, I can’t even make a decision about what printer to buy for my office without hearing a snarky voice in my head that says, ‘How do you know that’s the right one? What if you screw this up and waste more money?’
“I’m tired of feeling this way. I know I need to move past this but I don’t know how.”
Jill was struggling to move forward in her business because she hadn’t forgiven herself for a past mistake.
Why Forgiveness Is A Key Mindset Skill
A lot of my clients bristle when I say the word “forgive”, because they think forgiving something means that you are saying what happened was OK, and it would be fine if it happened again.
They think that keeping their bad decision in the forefront of their mind will help them stay vigilant and avoid another mistake.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
By continuing to judge yourself for making a bad decision, you keep your brain locked in a state of stress where you often miss important details, making it MORE likely you will you will make another big mistake.
When you allow yourself to go through the process of forgiveness around a mistake, you are simply saying that the action is over, and it no longer has the power to hurt you.
Forgiveness is a key mindset skill because the success of your business relies on your ability to make decisions to move your business forward, which you cannot do when you are beating yourself up over the past.
The Steps Of The Forgiveness Process
Here are the steps I guided Jill through to help her forgive herself:
1- Acknowledge the thoughts and physical sensations you have when you think about your bad decision.
Begin with your thoughts first. Imagine that these thoughts are like subtitles running across a TV screen. Don’t judge them or try to change them, simply let them come up as they are.
Next, do a body scan and note the physical sensations you have in your body.
Start at the top of your head and move down to your neck, chest, solar plexus and gut. Note the physical sensations like “chest tightness” or “churning in my gut” without putting a label on them like “I’m stressed”.
Tuning in to your physical sensations is a critical part of the release process because they are the root that keeps the stressful thoughts anchored in place.
Acknowledging your thoughts without acknowledging the associated physical sensations is like trying to weed your garden by just cutting off the top of the weed, rather than pulling it out by the root.
To “weed” your mindset and remove stressful or painful thoughts, you must acknowledge the physical sensations associated with the thoughts.
2- Record the facts what happened as honestly as you can.
Think of yourself as a reporter who is trying to describe all of the details of the situation for their audience. Leave judgments like “And then I was really stupid because….” and just report on the facts.
3- As you look over the facts of the situation, was there any piece of information that you ignored or overlooked at that time that impacted the outcome?
As I walked Jill through this exercise, she remembered that she had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach when she thought about working with this marketing consultant.
She said, “I wrote it off at the time because I thought I was just stressed and overwhelmed at the thought of spending the money. But looking back, I realize I mainly got that feeling when I talking with the consultant herself.”
4- Offer yourself compassion for anything you ignored or overlooked.
Researcher Kristen Neff defines self compassion as “a process by which we give ourselves that same kindness and care that we’d give to a friend.”
Self compassion is a critical part of the forgiveness process because it helps you separate from sticky emotions like shame, anger, or judgement that keep you emotionally attached to a bad decision. I like to think of self-compassion as the “Goo Gone” of the forgiveness process 🙂
Kristen Neff has several excellent self-compassion meditations and exercises on her website. Click the box that says “self compassion practices” on the home page to find the list. My favorite is the “self compassion/loving kindness meditation” in the middle of the list.
5- Create a new mantra to guide your actions as you move forward.
Once you have let go of the past, create a new mantra to guide you as you move forward. Jill’s statement was “I trust that all of my decisions are helping me to move forward”.
The five steps of the forgiveness process are:
1- Acknowledge your thoughts and physical sensations.
2- Record the facts impartially.
3- Note any information you overlooked or ignored.
4- Offer compassion to yourself.
5- Set an intention for how you would like to move forward.
You may need to repeat this process for several days or weeks, particularly if the mistake involved something very stressful like a public failure or the loss of a significant amount of money.
How do you know when you are done? The physical sensations that you have in step 1 are going to help you assess your progress.
When you start with step 1, rate the intensity of your physical sensations on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the most intense.
After you complete step 5, repeat your body scan and re-assess the intensity of your physical sensations. When your rating of your physical sensations is below a 3/10, you are likely ready to move on to this exercise. (Although you can continue it until you are at a zero!)
My challenge to you today is to think about an an area of your business (or life) where you are having trouble trusting yourself and ask, “Is there something related to this where I need to forgiveness?”
I’d love to hear how this goes for you, so please share your aha’s below!