How to push on after a mistake

Tiger Woods has always been one of my heroes growing up, just like for so many other people. I’ve always admired his intensity, character and modesty, and boy can he whack a ball. When the news broke out about his sex scandal in 2009, I was shocked and devastated. Having grown up watching him hit punishing drives and sink impossible putts, this was all just too much to comprehend. I didn’t know what to think anymore.

I’ve done shitloads of things in my life that I’m not proud of. Some I’ve atoned for, and some I’m still working on. I think pretty much every person can say that, but I could be wrong. Even Mahatma Gandhi admitted to stealing gold from his father at a young age.

No matter how good we are or think that we are, we are all capable of doing bad things once in a while.

Sometimes these actions can be difficult to look back on and rationalise. They can stick in your head and give you restless nights to the point of insanity. Sometimes we sweep these actions under the carpet and hope that they’ll disappear, only for them to re-emerge later in life and present their own kind of challenge.

The guilt of doing something wrong can eat away at your soul until you are nothing more than a prisoner inside your own polluted mind.

We sometimes wish we could go back into our past and change something, anything to rid ourselves of the guilty, self-loathing energy.

Perhaps you treated someone badly.

Maybe you lied or were unfaithful.

Or maybe you just did something knowing it would hurt someone.

Of course you wish you could go back in time and do it all over again, whatever it may be. That’s human nature. But of course that’s impossible. Things that happen in the past are there forever and like it or not, you have to live with your choices.

So many of us have difficulty letting go. Some people beat themselves up for the poor decisions they’ve made and waste the present moment rueing the wrongs of the past. That’s destructive thinking. Whilst it is important to learn from our mistakes, falling into the trap of regret and nostalgia can very quickly descend into darker areas of self-loathing.

It’s time to move on. It’s time to start realising that doing something bad doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.

If something bad is truly causing you pain, you have to realise these three things:

Everyone has done something bad at some point

This doesn’t give you a get out of jail free card to go and mess with someone’s feelings or rob a bank, hell no.

But it is important to realise that nobody is perfect. Making mistakes is an important aspect of human existence. Even with the best of intentions you are going to end up doing something you regret.

Mistakes don’t make you a shit bloke and you shouldn’t criticise yourself too harshly for it.

Everyone has something in the past they wish they could change too – if they said they didn’t, they’d be lying. You simply cannot be too hard on yourself when regret is something everyone experiences. Realise that it is normal and that it can be an important tool for personal development so that next time you are better equiped to make the better decision.

You’re a different person now

You’ve grown.

If you are looking back at something with regret, that experience has already changed you, humbled you. That’s something you should feel good about.

Regret is a sign that at some point you learned a lesson. It is a sign that you’ve reflected on the decision you once made and assessed it for what it was. If faced with the same decision now, things would be different.

You cannot be mad at yourself for a decision you made in the past. After all, the person who made that decision isn’t the same person you are today.

Seize the opportunity

Just because you did something wrong doesn’t mean that nothing good can come out it. If you’re willing to accept your wrongdoings and atone for your mistakes, you will grow, you will become stronger, and you will hopefully never make the same mistake again.

Instead of looking back at what you did wrong, look at what lies ahead. Take a moment to look around at all the opportunities there are to be good in this world. You cannot control your past, but you can definitely control your future. Atone yourself by doing something good for someone. Give someone your time. Reach out to someone in need.

If we fill our minds with good thoughts and we strive to do good deeds, I don’t doubt that we can overcome any obstacle we face in life and wash away the powerful feelings of guilt and self-loathing.

Eight years have passed and I still love Tiger Woods. He has always been my hero and he always will be my hero. He will continue to prove the doubters wrong and win back the love and support he once had.

No matter how difficult a situation you are in, no matter how badly you feel trapped, and no matter how dark the night is, the sun will shine tomorrow.

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