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Why Mistakes Matter

Written by: Alandri

05 October 2021

Culture

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Why Mistakes Matter

There is a reason most articles or blogs start with a referral to the fact that making mistakes is an integral part of being human. We have all done it. And we will all do it some more. Forever. 

 

I recently read My Stroke of Insight by JB Taylor, a book about a neuroanatomist who had a stroke, survived it, describes it, and takes you through her road to recovery.  

 

This is something like that. Maybe a little less profound. 

 

If you are someone who rarely makes mistakes or remains cool, calm and very collected when you do. Please close the browser. This is not for you.

 

Discovery

 

That sinking feeling - when your day is going really well. And then there it is.

 

The first sensation in the realm of mistake-making is Realisation. That moment when you can feel all the blood drain from your face. All sound becomes a silent vibration. If you are really scraping the barrel, you should hear your heartbeat in your ears at this point. 

 

Panic moves in and comfortably lives in your body and mind. You have flashbacks and try to analyse, even justify, every single decision in the moments leading up to this one. But it’s final, and no amount of frantic attempts to visit the past can change it. You feel overwhelmed, powerless, and more than likely a little nauseous. 

 

 

What now?

 

You consider all the logical options available to you. Emigration. A witness protection programme (witnessing your own demise).

 

What you do next determines who you are… to an extent, at least. Apologising will not change the status quo, but it will matter. 

 

The only way out is through. That starts with taking responsibility, acknowledging your mistake and analysing all the factors leading up to it. Ultimately, you have to replay the movie to understand.

 

Pull yourself towards yourself and check yourself before you wreck yourself to Make. A. Plan. Humour and resilience will help. My humour, I have found, often falls in the category of ‘too soon’, but it helps me cope. 

 

Dig deep and find a willingness to own it and the initiative to fix it. That way you will be remembered not for your mistake, but for what you did thereafter.

 

Maybe you’re lucky and the solution is simple; the way out, clear. Maybe your mistake is irreversible and the consequences are permanent. If this was not the case, we would learn nothing. 

 

Either way, it is important to understand the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is the realisation that you did something “wrong”. This emotion can help nudge us to make up for it and move on. Shame, however, is convincing yourself that you are the very thing that is “wrong”. This will offer no means to learn and grow and will most likely cause you to become stuck in an unproductive, self-deprecating spiral. (Brene Brown - The Power of Vulnerability)

 

The Lesson

 

Mistakes teach us what doesn’t work and encourage new ways of thinking and doing. If we shift our mindsets and instead of seeing our mistakes as failures, view them as a chance to discover something new and better, we’re set to win… even when we lose. 

 

Here’s why making mistakes matter:

1. Consequences 

If there were no real repercussions for making mistakes we would not learn anything. Trial and error is important for improvement and progress. “I never lose. I either win or learn” - Nelson Mandela

2. Introspection

Mistakes force us to hold up the mirror and understand what went wrong. This enables us to adapt and implement measures to prevent a recurrence.

3. Compassion

It is only once you find yourself at the other end of a mistake that you are able to comprehend how easily others have found themselves there. It can be a lonely place.

Failing does not make you a failure. Mistakes do not define who you are. Owning up to it, unpacking it and understanding it, however, defines who you will become.

Successes are awesome, but failures are the teachers that equip us with the required experience to be a better version of ourselves. Facing the consequences, however unpleasant and regardless of the scars it may leave, builds character.

May we continue to learn from our mistakes and become better human beings. And may the recovery from our mistakes teach us humility, kindness, and compassion; towards ourselves and others.