Why Is Making Mistakes a Superpower and Not a Super Failure?
Mistakes are failures.
Mistakes only mean that you are going to fail.
Make ten or more mistakes, and you aren’t getting anywhere.
Mistakes are going to put you at the end of the line.
These are some of the biggest and most profound myths today when we speak of growth, self-development, climbing corporate ladders, getting ahead in life, and staying there without stumbling backward.
But the truth is, mistakes don’t mean failure. They are anything but failures, to say the least.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US President, is one of my favorite personalities. Why? Because he is one of the many epitomes of countless mistakes and failures that eventually led him to success. He went through multiple business failures, went to war as a Captain, and returned as a Private (the lowest military rank). He suffered a nervous breakdown in his career. He launched several failed runs at the political office before being elected the President.
To quote this great man, he said, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure.” And all this, through the innumerable mistakes he made throughout his journey.
So why do we fear mistakes so much? It is mainly because it is ingrained in us. As school children, we were no strangers to being judged by our mistakes. The number on any given test determined whether we passed or failed. If we were asked to answer a question and uttered the wrong answer, most of us were always too embarrassed to raise our hands again. Unfortunately, mistakes are not seen as tools for learning but as measuring one’s capabilities. If we made too many mistakes, we would fail the test or the entire class. It was almost like asking fish to climb trees.
Here’s the truth.
Coming back to where we are today in our lives, this is what needs to change. Most of us don’t even come close to our full capacity because we’re too afraid to make mistakes. Here’s what we must do.
Instead of looking at mistakes as proof of failure, you need to see them as proof of you trying. It is a sign that you are trying something new, so long as you maintain this attitude. You might feel like you need to be perfect, but our lives aren’t about comparing ourselves to others; it is about measuring yourself with who you were yesterday. When we learn from our mistakes, we have the power to turn into something tenfold better than we were before.
Remember, making a mistake doesn’t mean anything about you as a person. It is easy to jump to conclusions like you’re worthless. But remember, YOU make mistakes, but mistakes don’t make YOU. Let’s use them as stepping stones to keep rising to the next level and beyond.
It is not how we make mistakes but how we deal with them that defines us.
I would like to offer you a quick three-step process to deal more efficiently with making mistakes and how you can use it to fuel your growth.
It includes three questions that you need to ponder upon every time you make a mistake. By this, I mean studying your mistakes. Set aside any negative feelings you might have about them. Acknowledge the factors that led you to the error and learn from them. Focus on looking for an interpretation without making an excuse.
Q1. What went wrong?
Spend some time reflecting on the mistake. Try and figure out what happened or what didn’t go right. Go deep and examine what thoughts, behaviors, and external factors contributed to the mistake. For example: Was my mind already a bit hassled or tense before I made a mistake? Did I do enough research and homework before I went ahead with a task? Did I spill my coffee on myself and lose my temper minutes before making a crucial decision?
Q2. What could I have done differently?
As you reflect on what happened, identify things you could have done better or differently. For example: Could I have spent one extra minute to fully evaluate the decision before I made it or before I committed to something? Did I ask for feedback from others? Could I have run some more tests? Give yourself an honest evaluation.
Q3. What can I do differently next time?
Saying you’re not going to make a mistake again and sticking to it are two very different things. Think about what you can do differently the next time to avoid making similar if not the same mistakes.
Identify clear strategies you can use to avoid resorting to any old habits or behaviors. For example, identify your breathing patterns in intense or challenging situations. Is it slow, fast, or do you feel out of breath? Then make efforts towards correcting this the next time you are in a similar situation. Calculate the average amount of time required for you to comb through all factors before making a final decision/choice. Then try to slot these few minutes every time a situation arises.
There is NO such thing as failure or the impending doom of making innumerable mistakes. If anything, it is just a failure to learn.
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