Your mouth is dry, your stomach is in knots, your palms are clammy, and you suddenly feel short of breath. Why? You just had the gut-wrenching realization that you've made a major mistake.

We've all been there. And, while that moment of sheer panic is likely enough to inspire you to cower under your desk, you already know that's not your best course of action.

Instead, follow these five steps to bounce back even better than before:

1. Own It

After you've made a slip up, the worst thing you can do is attempt to sweep it under the rug and cross your fingers that nobody notices. Respectable, ethical people instead own up to their mistakes--immediately.

Accept fault right away, and don't attempt to make futile excuses or drag other people down with you. Any attempts to save face will only make your ownership seem halfhearted, forced, and disingenuous.

2. Apologize

Nobody operates in a vacuum. So, it's likely that your blunder had an impact on someone else--whether that's an employee, colleague, supervisor, client, or even friend.

Owning your mistake is one thing. But, it's really only half the equation. When your misstep had negative consequences for the people around you, you also need to apologize. No, a flippant, "Whoops, sorry!" comment in passing doesn't cut it. You need to be genuine and sincere.

Yes, everybody makes mistakes. But, that doesn't mean we don't need to apologize for them.

3. Accept Consequences

When you've made your apologies to the others involved, your next step is to see what you need to do in order to patch things up and remedy your error. While your mistake might have impacted numerous other people, it's still up to you to shoulder the majority of the fallout.

That might mean some late nights in the office or a lot of extra work on your plate. But, apologizing without accepting your own consequences is pointless--and even a little condescending.

4. Learn From It

Now that you've done damage control, it's time to focus on how you can use this experience to improve.

Take a magnifying glass to your slip up and determine where things went wrong. Were you working too fast? Did you neglect to check in with other members of your team? Were you just being lazy?

Get specific with what exactly caused your error, and then develop a plan for how you'll avoid committing the same oversight in the future. Stick a post-it note on your computer monitor if you have to!

After all, making a mistake once is understandable. But, doing so repeatedly? Not so much.

5. Let It Go

The final step of recovering from your goof-up? Letting it go and moving on.

Yes, this can be easier said than done. However, continuing to obsess over your failures and shortcomings won't do you any favors. In fact, it'll likely just distract you from being productive everywhere else.

So, when you've done what you needed to in order to smooth things over, take a deep breath and move on with a clear head.

Nobody likes that "stomach in your shoes" feeling when you know you've just made a major mistake. But, it's not what you did that matters most--it's how you bounce back from it.

Use these five steps, and you'll not only recover from your slip up, but learn from it as well.

Published on: Jul 19, 2016
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