Why do we see making mistakes as bad thing?
Posted on 4th May 2016 at 07:45
It’s always struck us as ironic that so many things we consider to be bad are really good things in disguise.
Perhaps it’s because we can’t immediately see the benefits and so classify them as “bad” without looking any further.
Or maybe it’s down to our old friend, peer pressure, which says that we should all do things in a certain way regardless of how well it works for us.
We call it “backwards thinking” and a great example of this is our attitude to making mistakes, which are automatically seen as a bad thing. As though having things not turn out in quite the way we expected – or wanted – is wrong. Something to be avoided at all costs. And certainly not to be admitted to publically. Unless, that is, we want to look stupid.
The end result is that we become reluctant to do things in a different way. Or do anything new. Go outside our comfort zone. And so we become stuck in a rut, doing the same things in the same way every day.
Isn’t it about time we looked at mistakes in a different way? At what they’re really designed to do. Teach us how to do something in the quickest and most practical way possible. In other words through experience. Or trial and error, if you prefer.
To see this in action we need to return to early childhood. Whether it’s a toddler learning to walk – or older child learning to climb a tree – how do children naturally learn how to do things? Not by listening to someone telling them how to do it – however much adults may like to think they will (!) – but by actually doing it. Making mistakes. Learning how to do it differently next time.
Each time a mistake is made, valuable lessons are learnt and progress is made. The same mistake may be repeated a few times before the lesson is learnt (!) but, each time, a small improvement is made. And so over a period of time, a new skill is learnt. A goal is achieved. Not to mention learning how to get yourself out of unwanted situations too (!).
And it’s exactly the same for adults. While we may not like to admit it, mistakes – trial and error – are the only way humans learn how to do anything.
So why is there such an aversion to making mistakes once we become adults?
One reason we’ve already mentioned is our old friend peer pressure. That everyone should do the same thing in the same way.
Another, more compelling reason, is that making mistakes has been inextricably linked with failure. And no one wants to be seen as a failure, do they? You should get it right first time.
But if you follow this logic then you won’t try to do it again, but move on to something else. Where, most likely, you’ll make more mistakes and move on again.
The ironic thing is that in making a mistake – failing – valuable lessons are learnt in the process about how to do it better in the future. IF you then apply them.
So let’s look at mistakes in this new and different way. As the easiest way to learn. After all, whatever you may be told – or read – about how to do something, it’s just theory until you actually go and do it yourself. It’s only by doing something – experiencing it – that we learn how to do it. And how to do it better next time.
So are we saying that you should just go out and do new things without thinking them through first? No, of course not.
Planning what you’re going to do beforehand – and doing any necessary research – are an important part of doing anything new. But once you’ve done this, just take a deep breath and go and do it. Enjoy the experience and learn from the process. How to do it better, quicker or more easily next time.
Whether it’s something big or small, it’s a myth that everyone does it right first time. Believing this puts a huge obstacle in your way.
And, if you’re still sceptical, look at what you’ve achieved in the past. Did you do anything right first time? No. Instead it evolved from making various mistakes along the way and learning how to do it better, until you reached your desired outcome.
Oh and one final thought from a friend of ours which perfectly sums up how to put this into practice. And whose advice we’ve followed for years. Make lots of little mistakes, learn from them and you’ll quickly find yourself where you want to be. How’s that for a simpler approach to life?!?
As always, the choice is yours.
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