At University I trained to be a teacher using the “discovery method” whereby pupils find answers, rather than memorising the correct answer. When I started teaching using this method however, the other teachers and school administration soon complained bitterly about how disruptive it was. So much so, that I eventually had to change to their traditional way of teaching.

The underlying logic of traditional teaching is that being right is good and being wrong is bad. Taken further, being wrong is a failure and is shameful. Then pupils who struggle at school soon feel they are they are failures: “I can’t do maths!” or “I can’t spell!” or “I hate school and want stop attending!”

The sad implication is not only do these pupils give up, but they generalise this to other areas of their lives where they give up in the face of difficulty or tough times. In other words, they don’t learn how to manage stress and develop personal resilience.

The root of the problem is the way mistakes are viewed. Mistakes in themselves, while often uncomfortable, are not necessarily bad. We need mistakes in our lives. They take us out of our comfort zones as we flounder about looking for answers. That’s the creative space where new learning takes place and new ideas are born.

Being embarrassed by our mistakes and even trying to hide them, means we miss a huge learning opportunity to grow and develop. We don’t grow and develop in good times. We grow and develop when we struggle, are out of our depth and have to re-examine all that we have taken for granted. A completely different mindset to develop resilience is required to say: “What can I learn from this?” Or “What positive or good can come of this?”

So what should you do when you screw-up?

Here are three rules of how to bounce back from screw-ups:

Rule one: be the bearer of bad news

Make sure that you are the first person to announce your screw-up. You may want to hide the mistake, and hope no one discover it. But in our interconnected world, mistakes will come out — secrets cannot be hidden forever. So own up to what has happened and announce it before anyone else does.

Rule two: learn from the screw-up

Ask yourself: “What is the learning?” If you never make this mistake again, it will have been a cheap lesson. If other people have been involved in creating the screw-up, ask them what you can all learn from it. Asking this question will take your mind off the negative aspects of the screw-up and move to positive thinking about how you can learn and grow from it.

Rule three: focus on the future
Don’t allow yourself to slide back into going over and over what happened, who was to blame, the stupidity of it, and how awful you feel. Stay focused on learning from it and how the future will be better. Ask yourself: “What will I do to make sure that this screw-up never happens again?” Are there processes and procedures that need to change, and do you need to commit to not to falling into some trap?

Use these three steps to get past screw-ups, to bounce back from adversity and be resilient!