Four Simple Reasons To Celebrate Your Mistakes
“Make glorious amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody has ever made before. Do not freeze, do not stop, do not worry. Whatever you are scared of doing, do it.”
~ Neil Gaiman
To err is human, and to beat yourself up about it for days after the fact is…well, also human.
We are all wired to accept positive feedback and tend to shut down instead of admitting that we screwed up and are staring at the negative feedback standing at our doorstep. Instead of opening the door and facing our error, we hide behind the curtain and peek through the window until it goes away. It is a natural emotional response to goofing up.
Sadly, this is a learned behavior pressed on all of us at a young age. We are taught that our mistakes are both the center of our focus and a bad thing. This mentality is at the core of our formal education. Academics have made us think that mistakes are nothing more than incorrect answers that hurt our grades, and the most successful of our classmates were the students that had the least amount of wrong answers. If you did poorly on a test, your job was to take a bad grade and hope it didn’t torpedo your odds of passing. This experience taught us to dread mistakes instead of learning how to deal with them appropriately.
Real-life works differently. In your never-ending quest for perfection, you are going to make mistakes — bunches of them. They will be of varying size, shape, (and maybe even smell), and your initial reaction may be to curl up into a ball and shrink away from the moment in front of you.
Here are four reasons why we should choose to admit that we’ve made a mistake and move on:
Your going to make them anyway.
Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. We all make them. Coming to terms with that will go a long way toward making it easier to accept your mistakes when they happen. If you are not making mistakes then you are not taking chances, and constantly walking the path of least resistance will keep you away from personal growth.
You can’t control everything. Understanding that you are part of a world that has a fallibility rate of 100% has other advantages as well. Once you realize that making mistakes is a repeating occurrence, it is easier to take ownership of them and move forward after they happen.
They are learning opportunities.
Until you take the emotion out of making a mistake and instead consider your error rationally, you’ll be hard-pressed to take advantage of the learning opportunity in front of you. Treating them for the growth opportunity they are, instead of the negative thing that you are naturally inclined to make them out to be, changes the power of mistakes. It takes the fear of making them away.
Despite clearly understanding that we aren’t perfect, we choose to shame ourselves whenever we screw up instead of embracing the opportunity for improvement. Don’t hide from the shame of a mistake; embrace it. When you can look at your mistakes rationally and learn from them, you keep from making them a second time. It’s easier to take ownership when you don’t run from them.
They sting less and less over time.
You know the really big mistakes that you made when you were a teenager, the ones you thought had “ruined your life?” They weren’t such a big deal at twenty-five, were they? Guess what? The mistakes that you made at twenty-five or thirty-five or forty-five won’t be a big deal in a couple of days-months-years either.
As you begin to see that even your big mistakes fade into the background you start to realize that they don’t define who you are. It may have stung a bit in the beginning, but the pain eventually wears off. This allows you to see that you will get on the other side of your mistakes, and positions you to take some of the risks that you’d been previously avoiding.
It’s important to take the “long game” approach.
They are as responsible as your successes for your life.
Our successes and failures are equally responsible for the path our lives take. If I hadn’t chosen to work a less-than-great job in my early twenties over going back to school I would likely have never met my wife, who is obviously my soul mate.
Life is not lived in a straight line. Every decision we make is a step forward, but not always in the direction we want to be going at that moment. Mistakes are nothing more than stepping stones on the way to who we want to be. Sometimes they are only short-term blips in our day — the things that we initially consider mistakes have the chance to end up being great decisions in the end.
This doesn’t mean that we are defined by our mistakes any more than our successes, but they have absolutely played a part in who we are.
Mistakes are a part of life. Don’t be afraid to make them, be afraid to not make them. Hiding from them will keep you from realizing your greatest successes. It’s important to understand that a life well-lived is going to be littered with errors — personal, professional, etc. Our job is not to run away from them but to understand why they happened.
We need to learn from them so we don’t make the same mistakes multiple times, understand that they sting less over time, and that we wouldn’t be where we are without them.