Women can be especially hard on themselves. Ever notice that? Harder on themselves and (sometimes even other women) than anyone else seated at the table.
Do you recognize yourself in any of the following scenarios?
- You say the wrong word at a job interview, then replay it 742 times in your mind before falling asleep that night.
- You blow off a PTO meeting at your child’s school, and imagine every other parent giving you condescending looks in pickup line for weeks.
- You notice a lingering piece of spinach in your teeth three hours after lunch, so you replay each and every human encounter, and try to remember whether she had a weird look on her face, and why, for the love of Pete, no one said anything! (You conclude that everyone must think you’re too far gone to mention it.)
Now here’s a thought… what does it really matter?
Smart women shrug off the small stuff and get on their way.
We’re pretty good at retail therapy, changing our outfit or hair color to pick ourselves up. We’re excellent at swapping one feeling for another, with the mental gymnastics that would leave most men in knots. E.g. Uncertainty over a promotion transfers easily into a desire to furiously clean the kitchen. Sadness over a friend’s illness slides into a full-on campaign to raise awareness on our social media pages.
We’re not as good at acceptance, and certainly not inclined to take a simple do-over. Why? Because errors need fixing. Failures need improving. With enough discussion, a new course of study, or a different approach, we can overcome any setback.
Women tend to internalize gaffes, rather than laugh them off. In an effort to prevent a second strike, we retreat and study, analyze, drink, wallow with a friend, or exercise, etc.
There’s always a remedy...
On the other hand, we could just try again.
Yep, without further ado, we could keep it simple and unabashedly try the exact same move a second time.
Paying little attention to small personal errors is the secret sauce of confident women.
Men do this well. That's not just anecdotal; studies have proven this. They take their Mulligans and make it look easy, because, in fact, it is.
Smart women use Mulligans to their same advantage. No harm, no foul. A Mulligan is a small gift. A freebie. No judgment about quality, or preparedness, skill or talent; a Mulligan is a straightforward Gimme.
The reasons for taking a Mulligan are many and varied, but in the end, those are mere details. A Mulligan is simply there for the taking, so you should take yours as often as allowed.
Can you imagine getting out of your way with ease? When was last time you let yourself take another swing without any apologies?
The Mulligan Story
The Mulligan was invented by a man who knew how to make light of failure. As the story goes, David Mulligan had been rushing to meet his golf buddies; he claimed his hands were still vibrating from the drive when he stepped up to the first tee. (This was in the 1930’s, so cars weren’t what they are now.) After wildly botching his first drive, he simply grabbed another ball, re-teed it, and swung again.
He called it a “Correction Shot”.
What do you think happened? Did the sky fall down? Did his friends abandon him at the tee? Did the club revoke his membership? Did they get in a fight?
No. None of those things occurred. In fact, later at the 19th hole, everyone laughed about it. To top it off, it became a thing, a celebration of mistakes on the fairways and greens of the game.
Imagine taking a correction shot with the sense that you are entitled to it. This is where things get shaky for those who strive for excellence. You hold personal high standards and expect the same of others. Errors should be duly noted. You play by the rules.
Is it possible to take a Mulligan without being riddled with guilt, shame, apology, or something on the imposter syndrome spectrum?
Know Your Deeper Intention
In her TEDtalk, Mallika Chopra (yes, the daughter of the yoga and new age guru Deepak Chopra) shares a story infused with a sense of humor and self-kindness. She was interviewing Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now) about the theme of her blog, Intent, which, according to Mallika, means knowing who you are, what you want, and how you serve.
After a morning of nervous energy and a flight to meet this hero of hers, she ends up sitting with Eckhart, literally listening with him as church bells rang outside. Ding Dong, ding dong. Tick, tick, tick… She’d been granted only a few minutes for the interview and time was wasting away, it seemed.
We’ve all been there. Anxious about blowing our best shot, missing an opportunity and feeling completely out of control about the situation. When the stakes are high – and to women, who are careening through life under stress of our daily, self-imposed high expectations, where almost all outcomes feel significant – how do you go about taking a Mulligan?
In the end, Mallika was rewarded with more time and a productive interview. In short, a Mulligan suffused with self-given grace.
The Trouble with Best Intentions
Ironically, Intention is one of those words that sounds good, but there’s an underlying, implied foreboding attached: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” was a favorite quote of one of the nuns at my Catholic high school. I remember that every time I've aimed high and fallen short, which is to say, a thousand times.
- I intended to make it home in time to cook dinner. But it's takeout again.
- I intended to throw my mother a birthday bash. It ended up being just family for BBQ and cake.
- I intended to help plan the charity event this year. I attended the dinner, at least.
- I intended to give the perfect speech to my organization. I bungled the opening lines.
Still, there's hope and humor. Intention sets parameters for a good life story, regardless of the specific outcome of all the individual scenes. You know who you are. You know what you want. You know how you serve.
Life holds no guarantees. Some of your hopes and dreams will be dashed against the rocks before it's over. However, the chances of catastrophic failure grow slimmer if you’ve established a meaningful, personal intention as your foundation.
Intention gives you solid footing and the confidence to brush off mistakes.
That way, when you swing and miss, it’s easier to confidently pull another ball out of your pocket. Of course, you didn’t intend to slice that ball into the woods. That would be silly. You intended to drive it straight down the fairway.
And there it is.
The Power of Intention
Intention comes from a deep place. Its arc outreaches your day-to-day foibles. With practice, when you take the occasional Mulligan, expect to bounce around from mistake to mistake in a forward direction, with your intention intact.
Let’s make being easier on ourselves “a thing”. Let’s make Mulligans out of mountains and laugh... Please don’t forget to laugh.
No woman ever walked a straight or smooth path. Don't count on it yourself. You’re going to have to settle into the deep grooves of intention with a sense of humor and a smidgeon of self-grace, and take the occasional, unapologetic Mulligan.
Now you. When have you taken your Mulligan and laughed?