Mistakes Are Wonderful Opportunities To Learn

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Failure Is Part Of Success

Mistakes are a normal stage of growth. In a recent study two groups of students were taught random words. One group was coached and told, “Mistakes are normal and will be a part of the process. The 2nd group was not given any advice. Not surprisingly, the group in which mistakes were normalized scored better than their peers. Yet too often we are cautious and avoid trying difficult things as if failure were deadly.

The Critical Voice In Your Head Isn’t Real

You might not have the guts to make mistakes because you are worried about what others think. Ricky Nelson sang in the song, “Garden Party”, “You can’t please everybody so you have to please yourself.”   Unfortunately, we are often trying to please the critic in our head.

When clients are afraid to make mistakes, I ask, “Who is on your bus?”

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The bus is a metaphor for past memories of criticism. Floating around in the back of their head is Aunt Bertie’s opinion on their weaknesses, or Mom’s critical complaints from years gone by. These old messages cast a shadow creating feelings of inadequacy and the fear of failure. How easy is it to maneuver around with a bus load of people?

Fear Of Failure Is A Dream Stomper

What would you do and who would you be, if you weren’t afraid to make a mistake? Who among us would tell a toddler just learning to walk, don’t try, you might fall down? Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 3.18.18 PMNo, we instead say encouraging things, “Come on, you can do it, don’t give up.”

We need to realize when attempting new things that we are toddlers, we will make mistakes, we fall before we learn to run.

Dr. Jane Nelson author of Positive Discipline says, “Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.” She further states:

It is much easier to take responsibility for a mistake when it is seen as a learning opportunity rather than something to be ashamed of.  If we see mistakes as bad we tend to feel inadequate and discouraged and may become defensive, evasive, judgmental, or critical of others or ourselves. On the other hand, when mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn, recognizing them will seem like an exciting venture. “I wonder what I will learn from this one?”

Mistakes Are Necessary

In the mid 1980’s many financial experts expected Asia to take over the world economy. Companies like Sharp, Sony, Seiko, Panasonic, and Toshiba were dominating their competition but over the last five years, these corporations have continued to decline. Why did this happen? Psychologist, Brad Hall writes, “Asia has not created wealth world wide because of their fear of failure. China’s corporate culture has the emperor model, “Keep your head down, follow instructions and don’t stray into uncharted areas—don’t think, don’t innovate. 

Coercive leadership is common throughout Asia and the training begins in childhood. (Remember Tiger Mother?) For their first 18 years, Chinese youth work under two leaders: their teacher and their mother. Both leaders use a coercive style. Both are highly vigilant of mistakes and teach children to stay inside the box.

We Learn From Failure

Have the courage to be keep trying. It is impossible not to make mistakes.  Dr. S. Thomas Foster, an expert on quality processes, says “ALL processes are subject to random variation.” We must have the courage to be imperfect while striving for perfection in order to learn.

Progress is slow

Many times we get discouraged with mistakes because progress appears non existent.

A seemingly overnight change at La’ie Point State Wayside, Hawaii illustrates this concept.  A large rock  blocked water the flow of the ocean. Slowly, the water pushed against the rock until the rock fell away and an opening occurred. It seemed over night but actually it had been occurring for many, many years.   The slow process was occurring many years before you saw results.

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Success may seem overnight but is a gradual process and it often takes miss steps before success is achieved. Fear of failure, stops creativity and progress because “mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.”


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Electronic article, “Where are Asia’s Global Companies?” retrieved 6/23/2017.


Another good article: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/03/25/why-success-sometimes-starts-with-failure/