Which of the following statements is closer to your mindset about mistakes?
#1: Mistakes are how we learn and I am willing to look at and embrace my mistakes in order to make positive change.
#2: Mistakes are to be avoided at any cost as bad things will happen if I make one, so even if I do make a mistake I will do everything in my power to pretend it didn’t happen or prove that it was really somebody else's fault.
Most of us have a belief system that falls somewhere in between these two extremes. If we lean towards mindset #2, sometimes our anxiety about having made a mistake can be so uncomfortable that it causes us to become defensive or aggressive. Often that aggression is turned inward with the result of feeling bad or other harmful behavior. Another belief frequently found in this system is that if I punish myself I won’t make the same mistake again; conversely, that is one of those conversations for no change that usually reinforces the very pattern we are trying to avoid. Mindset #1 encourages self growth but is not easy to hold onto, especially if external punishment for mistakes was part of our upbringing. Mistakes usually have their own natural consequences, so there usually isn’t need to add negative reinforcement. If I am willing to honestly examine without judgement how I found myself in a particular situation, I may discover an alternative route to avoid repeating the same path, and it is likely that I will learn something new.
Since we all are going to make errors, we might as well choose a positive attitude about them and redirect our thinking towards using them for good. Mistakes can deepen our knowledge, remind us of our humanity, let us know what works and what doesn’t work, promote compassion, teach forgiveness, identify areas in our lives that need more balance, help us develop humility and become more teachable, let us know when we are not listening, invite us to make better choices, and keep us connected and aware that we and the world are in a state of contact flux.To be more at ease with our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others, it may be helpful to remember that the discoveries of penicillin, the pacemaker, the ink jet printer, and ex-rays were all made by mistakes. Even though the willingness to honestly look at our own mistakes may be discomforting, the rewards may surprise you.
"If you have the guts to keep making mistakes, your wisdom and intelligence leap forward with huge momentum.” Singer and activist Holly Near