We all know our mistakes can define us. At least for the moment, until someone else makes a bigger mistake that grabs the headlines. There’s just not much room for error in this day and age, especially for those in the limelight.

The word mistake comes from an Old Norse word “mistak” which means to ‘take in error’. And though we all trip up, on a daily basis, we have a hard time accepting it and more importantly, letting it go. I imagine that Mr. Harvey didn’t sleep so well the other night. He probably woke up thinking about it. And probably will play the scene over and over in his head until the end of time.

The spin-offs of Alexander Pope’s famous quote,”To err is human; to forgive, divine”, are telling of our human condition:

“To err is human, to forgive, infrequent.” — Franklin Pierce Adams

“To err is human. To blame someone else is politics.”  — Hubert Humphrey

“To err is human; to blame it on a computer even more so.” — Robert Orben

“To err is human; to admit it, superhuman.” — Doug Larsen

Accurate self-assessment is an emotional intelligence competency that can be difficult for us mistake-making humans. An awareness of our strengths — and limitations — can often be thwarted by our desire to appear “right” in front of others. Instead of exercising an ability to identify and target areas of growth, we tend to run, blame and hide. It’s easier that way, right?

I love that Mr. Harvey came back out on stage and owned his error. He didn’t point a finger at anything or anyone else. He stated what he did, apologized, and made the correction. Sure, that won’t help him feel any better about the blunder for the next hundred years or so, but it was a mature and emotionally healthy action to take.

How do you react when you err?

The good thing about emotional intelligence, specifically accurate self-assessment, is that it can be developed. If you have the tendency to run, blame, or hide (and don’t feel alone if so — most of us do), here are some tips that can lead you down a new path:

  • Ask for feedback from those who work closely with you.  Really try hard to listen and not take a defensive stance so they feel safe to be honest with you.
  • Be realistic when setting goals for yourself.
  • Work with a coach who can help you capitalize on your virtues and make progress on the areas that are limiting you.
  • Be open to trying and learning new things.
  • Allow yourself to miss. Chalk it up as a learning experience and move on.

Those of us who are perfectionists will especially struggle with this one, but it is worth the hard work to get to a place where we can realistically assess our abilities and weaknesses and leverage them to be our best selves. Accepting and moving on from our errors is a new skill set for many of us, so be patient. We’re all a work in progress on this one, and practice makes perfect. Thankfully, each day being human gives us plenty opportunity to try out our new skills.

“To err is human, but it feels divine.”  — Mae West