How To Let Go Of Mistakes 101!

Madey Sule, a 16-year-old basketball and soccer player, says:

"One problem that constantly comes up while I'm playing sports, is the constant negative thoughts, especially right after I've made a mistake. The drive to keep going and do my best dwindles a little, and sometimes it does affect my performance."

Why do we dwell on our mistakes?

Screen Shot 2021-03-29 at 2.22.54 AM.png

On occasions where athletes miss a great shot, fail to pass, or drop the ball accidentally, it is common that they question their ability to do well within a few seconds. Yet, dwelling on our mistakes can worsen the actual problem. It can lead us to be frustrated, feel not good enough, or even feel judged by the crowd, which can be detrimental to our focus and success when competing.

For example, let’s say you’re in maths class. As you are sitting and not paying attention, your teacher requests that you go to the board. However, after 5 minutes of attempting to solve a problem, they let you know that you won’t be leaving until you have correctly answered it. Everyone is now looking at you. Your heart starts pounding, your palms are sweating and as you’re trying to focus, your mind starts having a burst of unwanted thoughts.

This is expected, however. When missing a shot, the hypothalamus, a small part settled at our brain’s base, triggers a fear response as a way of protecting ourselves from possible negative emotions. As a result, nerves and hormones signals are quickly transmitted to the adrenal glands—located above your kidneys. The adrenal glands, being stimulated from the hypothalamus, will then release a series of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These incite us to adopt safety methods such as blaming, aggression, and denying.

Although a mistake itself has no impact on our performance, it’s the rumination and dwelling of the mistake that makes us perform poorly—by giving it importance instead of focusing on our next shot.

How can we move on from a mistake quicker?

For any athlete, making a mistake while competing is something they think isn’t allowed. When competing we tend to have a “perfectionist” mindset. This doesn’t allow us to perform badly, because even the tiniest error sets off a chain of negative emotions and self-blaming, affecting our performance. 

Therefore, it is possible to get out of this loop faster, through acceptance

Here are few tips for accepting and for easily moving from a mistake to eliminate bad thoughts:

  1. Firstly, accept that you’re currently dwelling on a mistake you made.

  2. Recognize that your mistake was made in the past, you can’t go back in time and change it.

  3. Have your own personal motto! Something like, “Every mistake is a new beginning,” then refocus on your match to do your best on the next shot.

  4. Look for a positive outcome. Overall, being optimistic is crucial to success, so we seem to be less concerned with the past and live in the present. Any positive outcomes like your after-game ice cream with your teammates, the weekend you’re about to have, or something you’re looking forward to! We advise looking at self-efficacy and the self-determination theory.

Screen Shot 2021-03-29 at 2.22.20 AM.png

Here are some short YouTube videos that we highly recommend to build confidence and move on from mistakes:

The importance of self-confidence:

“Confidence is believing in yourself. Arrogance is telling others you’re better than they are. Confidence inspires. Arrogance destroys.” Simon Sinek

What makes actors like Will Smith and Dwayne Johnson so fun to be around? Simple answer: they are both charismatic and self-confident.

Being self-confident means feeling certain in our ability to do something well. Still, no one is born confident. If you are dealing with negative thoughts when playing, it could be also caused by a lack of self-confidence. Self-confidence helps us feel better about ourselves. When we are confident, we don’t pay much attention to what people think of failures. Instead, we keep a mindset of growth—allowing better performance on the next chance given. 

Self-confidence means less fear and anxiety to take risks, greater motivation and performance in sports, a happier life, more resilience, improved relationships, and more! People around you even feel it. Once you are a confident and nice person, everyone wants to be around you!

The great thing about self-confidence is that anyone can develop it! Want to know how?

If you are in need of quick, rock-solid tips to build your confidence on and off the field, check out the Boosting Confidence, which is an article by Brandon Shintani (the leader at Mind-Design Sports).

Works Cited

“Basketball Themed Wallpaper - Shooting Basketball During Sunset - 2337x1553 Wallpaper HD - WallpaperTip.”,

Chronic stress puts your health at risk. (2019, March 19). Retrieved March 22, 2021, from,of%20substances%20that%20repair%20tissues

Cohn, P. (2019, June 29). Let go of mistakes and end dwelling: Sports psychology articles. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from

Google Search. (n.d.). Retrieved from is the body's natural,partly physical response. Editors. (2018, January 12). Stone Age. Retrieved from Stone Age began about,Mesolithic Period and Neolithic Period.

Lydia Woodyatt Associate professor. (2020, August 21). 'I cheated on a school exam and I feel terrible. how can i get past this?' Retrieved March 22, 2021, from

Psychology of us. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2021, from

Rajguru, K. (2019, August 02). Types of motivational theories. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from


How to Remain Interested in Team Sports


Sports Psychology - A South Asian Take