Why It’s Important to Forgive and Forget

I had a real scare the other day.  My 3 year old daughter, Isabel, lost her balance and fell from an 8-feet-high rope ladder head first.  I was a few steps away, screamed, but couldn’t reach her in time.  She hit the dirt on the side of her head and right cheek.  Luckily, her head does not seem to be injured.  Besides a shiner on her cheeks, she was just super scared.

Why am I telling you this?  As I reflect on this experience over and over again in the 24 hours after her accident, I realized a distinct difference between how kids handle something like this vs. adults.  We as adults can better achieve career success if we behaved more like kids when we “stumble and fall” in our life or career – forgive and forget!.

We are all imperfect.  We all make mistakes in our careers or can be unfairly treated by someone at work.   Can you think of such a time when this happened to you?  I can think of a few.  Now I ask you, how long did you hold on to that experience when you metaphorically “stumbled and fell” a little in your career?    For many of us, it’s months even years where we blamed ourselves or others for what happened.   Forgive and forget is far from our minds.

Well, it took Isabel about 20 minutes to get over probably the most scary experience of her life and basically move on as if nothing happened.   I know she will want to climb another rope ladder next time she sees one.   I think most kids are like that.  I think this is why we always say kids are resilient and they can learn so fast so quickly.  They don’t hold onto “negative baggage or blame,” so they can always be in the next moment 100% absorbing that experience.   It didn’t even occur to Isabel to blame me who didn’t catch her or that other kid who stepped on her finger before she fell.  She just dealt with the accident and moved on once she felt better.

It seems so simple yet a lot of us adults lose that ability to be resilient – forgive and forget – once we grew up.  I still play the scene in my head today and want to blame myself for not catching her or blame the parents of the kid that stepped on her finger. But I am catching myself.   I realize every moment I hold onto any bad past experience is a moment I am not 100% in the present learning, evolving.  The same applies to bad experiences we may have had at work.

Let it go – forgive either yourself or others and forget it from your memory as soon as possible.  Whatever it is, it’s in the past.  Anytime we re-live it in our head even if we felt we were wronged is another way we continue to be victimized by it.  Imagine how much more capacity we have to learn and achieve career success if our heads were rid of past crap.

So I say, stop yourself if you start reliving past career mistakes.   Forgive and forget is a key skill to support your future career success.  We are all imperfect and unfortunately “sh*t happens” sometimes.  The best way to deal with it is to learn your lesson and move on, so you can experience every new moment with freshness and 100% of focus.

Good luck.  I look forward to your thoughts.   I am always in your corner.

– Lei

Lei Han

Lei Han is a Stanford engineer and Wharton MBA with 15 years of business experience. Lei is passionate in helping you Find, Excel, and Enjoy your careers. She write a career advice blog at BeMyCareerCoach.com - over 140 articles with tips on on career success, soft skills development, job search, and work life balance.