Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. We all make them. How can we not? We are imperfect beings. We have limits…of understanding, of knowledge, of experiences. But yet we so often beat ourselves up for making them. Some of us more than others. Some of the common things I hear are “I shouldn’t make mistakes” or “I should have known better” or “I can’t do something because the last time I did I made a mistake.”
And the amazing thing is that most of the people that say those things would also say that it would be unreasonable for others to say them. They want to hold themselves to a different standard than everyone else. In fact, they want to hold themselves to an impossible standard. They want to guarantee their failure. They believe they should be perfect. And they believe that they can’t learn from their mistakes, that they are doomed to fail.
That attitude really puts a person in a tough spot. In fact it often paralyzes people because despite these beliefs, data from real life doesn’t support them. They aren’t perfect. And they can learn. But believing something that isn’t true creates a bind that has no way out. Unless of course there is a change in perspective.
So what is that change, that shift? At a minimum is accepting that mistakes are natural and unavoidable. But to really make a shift means doing more than just accepting the inevitability of mistakes. It is to embrace them as important. To see them as the best opportunities for learning. They are the catalysts for change that help us grow and improve. Making a mistake is the reason we can retry something that we failed at – because we now no one way to NOT do it.
There is a famous anecdote about Edison and the light bulb. I could look it up but I’m going to paraphrase. When asked about the 700 light bulbs he tried that didn’t work he reportedly said something to the effect of “I didn’t fail 700 times. I didn’t even fail once. I just discovered 700 ways that don’t work.” Now, Edison may or may not have actually said that, but the message is accurate. When we make mistakes we learn things to NOT do. We grow. We add to our knowledge and our experiences. In essence we build an instruction manual.
Our manual will never be complete. Life is to complicated, situations vary too much. But we can continue to grow and do things differently. And when we make mistakes we aren’t failures…we are one step closer to doing it correctly. And just because life didn’t come with an instruction manual it doesn’t mean we can’t write our own. And each mistake allows us to make it better and better.