Posts Tagged ‘mistakes’

Make Mistakes–Pretty Please!!

I have been surrounded in the past few weeks by reminders about how important mistakes are to the process of being human.  While listening to the audiobook “As You Wish,” I was struck when author Cary Elwes describes a quote from his father: “It is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.”  And over the weekend, I heard famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson say that “any day I make a mistake is a good day, because then I have learned something.”

Both of these statements make me intensely happy.  And the reason that they make me happy is that they reflect a truth that I try to convey to my clients on a daily basis:

[tbpquotable] Mistakes aren’t failure. They are an essential part of being a healthy, growing human being.[/tbpquotable]

In a world where we are graded from an early age, with the possibility that our online mistakes might live with us forever, it can get easy to be swept up into the story of why mistakes are dangerous.  We can buy into the idea that a mistake says something about our essential worth.  That idea make us so paralyzed by our fear of making mistakes that we stop doing anything.

I want to call BS on that idea.  There is no skill that we have, from crawling to talking to writing our names, that we haven’t acquired after intensive practice. And that practice included mistake after mistake.  Mistakes that brought us one movement closer to mastery.  Human learning and growth is entirely a process of moving from mistake to competence.

During the month of February, I participated in the Real Happiness daily meditation challenge from Sharon Salzburg.  I appreciated the reminder that she often shared that distractions are chances to change how we interact with ourselves. Distractions aren’t failure. They provide the opportunity to shift from frustration with our mistakes to kind acceptance and redirection back to the meditation.

This compassionate, gentle outlook is such a lovely way to view mistakes.  And if you can bring that compassion to other parts of life, then you have the chance to begin taking action, happening to the world, and moving closer to healthy, connected lives.

So today, I would love to invite you to make some mistakes.  I’ll be there right along with you.  In fact, today, I am trying to master knitting a hat in the round.  I can promise that many mistakes will be made along the way.  I’m not sure that I will end up with anything vaguely resembling a hat.  I’ll post a picture of the results in the comments later for you.  Feel free to share your mistake-making adventures in the comments too.

And if you are feeling paralyzed by the possibility of a mistake, maybe I can help with that.  You can reach me by clicking that appointment button to your right.

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Making Friends With Mistakes

In one of my more popular posts, I wrote about the fact that we deserve self-care, no matter what. That falling out of a self-care routine doesn’t mean that you are barred from returning to it. I have had several conversations recently with clients that explored a different slice of self-talk and self-permission: making mistakes.

Here’s the thing. I passionately believe that mistakes are a critical part of deep learning. Some of the lessons I acquired most thoroughly in life are the ones I really had to struggle to master (except for stats & calculus–those are just long gone). I think that permission to make mistakes leaves room for discovery and creativity and growth. I believe that mistakes are the foundation of real mastery.

All of that is true. Here’s the other thing. I am not always great at making mistakes gracefully. In fact it might be fair to say that sometimes I downright hate making mistakes. It is important to me to be seen as capable and competent. It is even more important to me to believe that I am not letting people down. I can’t always remember that mistakes are a learning process. Mistakes remind me that I’m fallible, and that I still have a lot of learning to do. Mistakes keep me humble and, when I’m willing to make friends with them, also allow me to be more compassionate with myself and with others.

The problem is that many of us have a really deep shame story about mistakes. We truly expect ourselves to somehow get it right, the first time, all the time. And when we don’t meet that impossible goal, we tell ourselves that we’re not capable, we’re not good enough, we’re not trying hard enough.

How different would our days feel if we knew that mistakes were probably going to happen, but that it would be okay? That we can choose to be accountable for the results of our mistakes, make what reparations we need to make, and then go on to learn from the entire experience.

Can you imagine what it would feel like to have the weight of expected perfection lifted off your shoulders for a while? How much more comfortable might you be in your own skin? How much more compassion might you have for yourself and others? What great things might you learn along the way?

I know this runs counter to how many of you think (trust me, I’m in that group too, but I’m trying to grow out of it), but I’m inviting you to experiment with making mistakes a different experience. One that is about growth and learning rather than shame and unrealistic expectations. Do you have a “making friends with mistakes” story to share? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

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