According to Wikipedia, “A Mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder. Its best-known meaning is in golf whereby a player is informally allowed to replay a stroke (though this is against the formal rules of golf).” Contrarian that I am, my favorite form of golf—the one through which I’ve learned the most and had the most fun—is what I call “Unlimited Mulligans.”
We schedule ourselves for the last tee time, late in the day with no golfers behind us (so we won’t delay play for others). Then we play nine holes with permission to try any shot over and over from any spot we wish. Removing the need to rush and the fear of “failure” relieves all of the pressure, allowing my game to blossom and thrive. With every stroke, I laugh, I learn, I move forward—whether I end up in the fairway, the rough, the sand trap or the green.
Babies appreciate the joy and power of endless do-overs instinctively. Ever watched one learn to walk? They struggle slowly to their feet, take a step or two, start wobbling and, BOOM, before you know it they’re down on all fours again. If babies were wired like many adults, after that first fall, they would just accept that they are no good at walking (or anything else) and resign themselves to a life limited to whatever they can access on all fours.
Fortunately, babies don’t recognize that first (or fiftieth) fall as failure. They assess what they learned about balance and speed and try again. With each new attempt, they get a little wiser until one day, they don’t fall at all. They make a plan, try it out, determine what worked, identify what didn’t, refine the plan and try again. We were born knowing how to do that instinctively. But somewhere along the way, as adults, a wire got crossed and we started erroneously concluding that if we fail at something, WE ARE FAILURES doomed to mess up everything we attempt.
No matter how bright and experienced you are, sometimes things just won’t go your way. The next time you respond by calling yourself a screw-up and a failure, follow these simple steps to realign your energy and get back in the game.
Watch your language.
Instead of using words like “failure” or mistake,” adjust your perspective. You didn’t make a mistake or fail. You tried something that didn’t turn out as you expected or hoped. Give yourself the grace of unlimited mulligans.
Celebrate what worked.
When things don’t go as you planned, don’t focus on the perceived failure and beat yourself up. Instead, start by celebrating what went well and look for the silver lining.
Celebrate what didn’t.
You didn’t fail. You succeeded in ruling out yet another path that doesn’t get you where you want to go. Good news: there’s fresh insight buried within that path that didn’t lead where you had planned.
Get curious about what happened.
Review your steps one at a time and figure out where you veered off track. Maybe the environment changed between the time you made your plan and the time you began execution. No detail is too small to consider. Be a relentless scavenger on a treasure hunt—what you seek is still out there, just not where you expected.
Adjust your plan and START AGAIN.
Now that you know more about what works for you and what doesn’t, refine your approach and go for it with GUSTO!
In life, setbacks and unexpected outcomes are inevitable. But when you embrace them as golden opportunities for personal growth, greater insight and deeper wisdom, those setbacks light the way to stepping into your greatness.
How will YOU adjust your course and persevere TODAY?