Many of us routinely “beat ourselves up” for making mistakes. Rather than embracing and learning from our mistakes we speak negatively over them. “How could I have been so stupid” or “I never get anything right” are some of the common utterances of a person who is in bondage to their mistakes. When we shift our perspective and begin viewing mistakes as learning opportunities we become increasingly open to venturing outside our comfort zone and we begin taking the type of risks that can significantly elevate our game. Remember, mistakes are one of the prices we pay for growth.
What our MISTAKES can teach us…
Modification. Mistakes can provide us with an opportunity to change our behavior. For example, if you or someone you know has ever been cited for DUI, you are well aware of the behavior modifications that must take place if the person charged desires to remain out of jail and keep their job. Mistakes are often the gateway to massive change.
Introspection. Mistakes provide us with an opportunity for self examination. Whenever I make a significant mistake I engage in a process of introspection. What could I have done differently? What led me to make this decision in the first place? What will I do differently next time? Rather than “beat myself up” I choose to reflect and re-direct.
Sabotage. Why do we make the same mistake over and over? When we continue to make the same mistake over and over it is often an indication that we are intentionally trying to avoid something we perceive as uncomfortable. Recently, one of my clients experienced a life changing breakthrough when she recognized that she had engaged in a series of “abusive” relationships because she was afraid of allowing herself to be completely vulnerable and intimate with a man. For years she had been sabotaging her happiness.
Trust. Embracing our mistakes allows us to trust ourselves at a much deeper level. By accepting that I am not immune from making mistakes, it becomes easier to make bold decisions. I recognize that I will make mistakes (poor decisions) from time to time, however, my intention is to use them as a barometer for my growth rather than berate myself because I am not “perfect”.
Accountability. Mistakes shape our character. When we make a mistake do we take personal responsibility or do we seek someone to blame? Far too many people in leadership positions look for a “scapegoat” rather than taking responsibility for their decision, learning from it and moving forward. Accountability and personal responsibility are key characteristics of authentic leadership.
Knowledge. If we are open to learning, mistakes can provide us with a wealth of knowledge. Many of us have heard the saying “only a fool makes the same mistake twice”. Not true. Many of us are capable of making the same mistake several times before we grasp the lesson. I say “only a fool doesn’t eventually learn from the same mistake”
Empathy. Mistakes can help us to be more understanding and tolerant of others. Once I embraced the concept that I am always going to make mistakes, I became less judgmental of others.
Over the years, this understanding has helped me become a much more empathetic, effective leader.
Solutions. Mistakes usually inspire us to look for solutions. Throughout my academic career, math was not my best subject. I routinely made mistakes. My teachers would encourage me to keep reworking the problem until I found the solution. This same philosophy serves us well in any area of our lives where we find ourselves routinely making mistakes. We can’t stay stuck in a problem if we are actively seeking a solution.
Remember, when we choose to embrace our mistakes we are choosing to embrace personal growth.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.