Make Mistakes, Big and Small, and You Might Learn Something

We are all afraid of making mistakes. Humiliation, embarrassment, censure and lots of other nasty things can come from simple or significant mistakes.

We would all love to be perfect and do it all right. However, life simply doesn’t work that way (if it does for you, please share your secret!).

One person’s right can be another person’s wrong and the absolute pursuit of perfection can stress the body and mind to its limits.

So, should we all run out and purposefully screw something up? No, although, it might sound like fun once in a while. What we can try to do is not be fearful of making mistakes. We can take calculated risks and suppress our natural ability to be afraid to make mistakes.

Take Calculated Risks and Don’t Be Afraid

Mistakes are not only the result of an impulse or simply not thinking about something, they are also often the byproduct of some serious analytic thinking about the right course of action.

What’s the difference? An impulse might spur you to grabbing that hot cup of coffee in the morning without recognizing it could be producing the heat of a small sun. Serious analytical thinking, however, might be your decision to invest in a new venture where you spent days or weeks going over the investment strategy. Both of these resulted in a “mistake” – the coffee and the investment burned you, in different ways.

While restraining your impulses to prevent mistakes is a great idea, restraining your analytical thinking and decision making processes because you are afraid to get it wrong is simply preventing you from ever having a chance.

Give yourself chance, possibility and simply tempt the gods by thinking (as little or as much as it takes) about a potential course of action and doing it without overdoing the fear of getting it wrong. Fear can prevent you from ever moving forward and it can stick you in something called “analysis paralysis”. Analysis paralysis keeps you thinking about the consequences of a course of action and makes you simply lose sight of the end result.

Have you ever met someone and simply couldn’t understand why they had become so successful? Oftentimes, their success is based upon taking risks; hopefully calculated ones. More so, they likely learned from their mistakes. If anything, mistakes will teach you something.

Mistakes are a Learning Opportunity
Learning is good for you. Adding to your knowledgebase (or more simply what’s in your brain that you can use) is a great way to keep your brain working for the long haul. Making mistakes is simply one more way that you can learn and it’s often “experience learning”.

Experience learning is about doing something that then gets branded into your mind. Experience learning doesn’t only take the form of picking up a new skill, it can also produce the “how not to do it” effect.

For example, ever burn a batch of cookies or slide across ice during the dead of winter in your new sneakers? What did or could those experiences teach you? They might have taught you that the temperature gauge on your oven is off, that you should have read the recipe, or that sneakers don’t provide much traction on ice. There are many things you could or did learn from one of these experiences.

When you think about the good, bad and ugly of your mistake – the good is always your take-away – what you learned from the screw up.

Mistakes happen both personally and professionally. You might cc your co-worker on an e-mail they didn’t need to see or you might buy your fiancé a Taschen Art book a modern Swedish design for Valentine ’s Day (I did that). You either did or will learn and grow personally and professional from these mistakes.

Live your life, make a mistake or mistakes, don’t be afraid to, you will learn from them and be stronger for it.

Written for Dumblittleman.com on 6/15/2009 by Ari J. Markenson, J.D., M.P.H. Ari is a healthcare attorney, graduate school professor and writer who regularly tries to learn something new as a goal toward personal and professional achievement. Photo Credit: plingberg

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