20 Apr Is making a mistake so bad?

mistakes oopsEveryone makes mistakes and we read in the press, almost daily, about mistakes that have been made by people in all walks of life (banking, health, education, families) etc.

But all too often they are either covered up or the blame is afforded to someone other than the person who made the mistake. You can only learn from a mistake after you admit you’ve made it. As soon as you start blaming other people you distance yourself from any possible lesson. But if you have the courage to stand up and honestly say “This is my mistake and I am responsible” the possibilities for learning will be more attainable.

So what is it about making a mistake that is so bad? A lot of it comes down to the cultural assumptions we have about mistakes and failure. We’re often taught in school, in our families, or at work to feel guilty about failure and to do whatever we can to avoid mistakes, which can make us want to hide them or not admit to them.

This sense of guilt combined with the inevitability of setbacks when attempting difficult things explains why many people give up on their goals. They are not prepared for the mistakes and failures they may face on their way to what they want. What’s missing in many people’s beliefs about success is the fact that the more challenging the goal, the more frequent and difficult setbacks will be.

But for many reasons admitting mistakes is difficult. In many cultures it is our work that represents us and mistakes can determine our destiny. People become very risk adverse for fear of making a mistake. You may never have felt this way, but many people do.

Learning from mistakes requires you to have the self-confidence to admit to them and being courageous about making changes. Of course there are different types of mistakes. The stupid or simple ones that don’t have a great effect on anyone else, e.g., forgetting to pay a bill, to more complex ones that affect others and have unsatisfying outcomes to important matters.

What do you need to consider so that you learn from mistakes?

  • Accepting responsibility makes learning possible.
  • You can’t change mistakes, but you can choose how to respond to them.
  • Growth starts when you can see room for improvement.
  • Look to understand why it happened and what the factors were.
  • What information could have avoided the mistake?
  • What small mistakes, in sequence, contributed to the bigger mistake?
  • Are there alternatives you should have considered but did not?
  • What kinds of changes are required to avoid making this mistake again? What kinds of change are difficult for you?
  • How do you think your behaviour should/would change if you were in a similar situation again?
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