Q. Everyone in my company is really nervous about the economy right now. I recently made a stupid mistake and now I've been told I'm being...

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Q. Everyone in my company is really nervous about the economy right now. I recently made a stupid mistake and now I’ve been told I’m being laid off. I’m obsessing about ways I could have avoided that mistake. How do I deal with the fact that I’ve wrecked my career?

A. First, realize few mistakes have the long-term power to “wreck” your entire career. Second, realize that you’re telling yourself you wouldn’t have been laid off if only you hadn’t made that mistake.

It’s comforting to believe that you can avoid unemployment if you can avoid mistakes. Unfortunately, this superstition won’t protect you any more than will avoiding breaking mirrors or throwing salt over your shoulder.

The truth is, most people in most companies in most industries are nervous about the economy right now. When people are nervous, we tend to freeze and do nothing to avoid making mistakes. However, no business can be both paralyzed and profitable.

At some point, the management of your company will realize doing nothing may be worse than doing the wrong thing and learning. The same conditions that are creating anxiety will also create opportunities for people and companies that are willing to take risks.

If obsessing about the mistake you made would bring back your job, I’d be a fan of your obsessing. Since you don’t have a time machine, the only benefit of reviewing your mistake is to learn something. Any further rumination is just self-abuse.

We don’t have a crystal ball in life that shows us how to avoid mistakes or disappointments. We can develop the trust in ourselves that we can grieve our loss and then make the best choice still available.

Your job won’t come back if you keep reviewing the past. You might have been laid off no matter how perfect you were. Put your focus on getting a new job. You’ll find your future will be protected in learning to cope with adversity, much more than maintaining a belief you can avoid it.

The last word(s)

Q. I’m starting a part-time service business. People tell me I need to immediately get a Web site, brochures and nice office space or no one will take me seriously. I can’t afford all this. What should I do?

A. Your customers will take you seriously because you deliver a high-quality service, not because of your glossy brochures. You can spend money on marketing as you start bringing in money.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com.

Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube