Making Mistakes A Better Way

02 July 2009, by A. Cedilla

In the automatic, quick side-step to avoid mistakes, people forget that we learn the most from making them.

We remember the lesson more if we get hurt from it. Ever stuck a fork in an electric socket when you were young? Ever did it again? The memory of pain stuck the lesson home when you were a kid.

As an adult, it’s the fear of pain that can drive us away from learning more about ourselves, about the world, and about the good we can make in it if we dared to acknowledge our true capacity for inciting change.

Fear controls us by asking difficult questions. Mistakes can strengthen us if we muster the courage to answer them honestly.

What if I’m not good enough?

What if I am?

You’ll never know unless you test yourself repeatedly. That’s how you can earn self-confidence — you trust yourself more with everything you overcome and everything you learned to handle: the good, the bad, the unexpected.

If you’re afraid to find out if you’re good enough (or not) for sure, that fear prevents you from trying to grow, because you don’t want definitive proof that you’re as bad as you thought you were (“See, they were right all along.”), or as good as you’re afraid you could be (“All that time, wasted.”)

What now? What next?

Self-reliance is self-confidence’s twin. It’s hard to grow one and not the other.

You learn to handle things better the more things you handle, and to do that, you need to be able to make mistakes and build from them, not just learn. Building something involves action, learning something usually means memorization.

To answer these questions, you need experience to be able to anticipate what happens next, and to have experience, well….you still have to make mistakes. See?

So, how do you make better mistakes?

Acknowledge the incident. If you choose to ignore it, you pass up the lesson. Think, “There must be a pony here somewhere…”If the mistake is especially memorable, you need to understand why it is so, and what about it makes the incident so heartfelt for you.

Recognize the emotions that the mistake sparked in you. As stated before, it’s the emotions that paralyzes us into inaction that we need to deal with. Fear is also an emotion.

Acknowledge the emotions, and move on.  Emotions fade in time, so keep a record. See, it isn’t in the exact details of what happened that truly sticks with us, it’s how we dealt with it that lingers.
Take notes. Good notes. Keep a record, remember?

  • Analyze the contributing factors – what helped set up the environment or situation in such a way that the mistake was more likely to happen? Thunderstorms. Hard rain. Wet floor, no rugs to wipe your shoes on….
  • ID where these factor can be improved upon, removed or influenced – Set a rug by the door. Keep a mop handy. Make sure the floors don’t have anything scattered on them that can trip you up.
  • Apply the new information. Test to see if it works.

Carry over the methodology to other aspect of your life. Analyze, identify, apply, test. Lather, rinse, repeat. Keep testing, keep learning.

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