Recall the last mistake you made. How did you handle it? Did you own up to it, and perhaps learn something from it? Or did you try to blame it on someone or something else and move on? Or were so mad at yourself you did not take the time to see what you could have learned from the experience? If your response was the latter, you have plenty of company: it is the response of most people.
Most of us fear making mistakes, and when we make them, we try to rationalize them away. The reality is, mistakes are a part of life and we should not live our lives in fear of making them. Rather we should learn from our mistakes or we run the risk of repeating them.
How can we learn from our mistakes?
For one thing, when you make a mistake, admit it. By admitting it, you are doing two things: you are being honest and you are taking responsibility.
Honesty keeps us from rationalizing. Responsibility keeps us from blaming our mistake on others. Rather than saying, “You did not tell me” or “I didn’t know,” it will likely come as a surprise to those around you when you say, “I made a mistake and I take responsibility for it.”
As important as this is, it is not enough to be honest and take responsibility for your mistakes. You must also examine yourself to see what you can learn from the mistake.
When I was about 13, I lived on a farm. We had a van with a battery that wasn’t holding its charge. In an attempt to recharge the battery the engine was left running for about 30 minutes. I came outside and heard a hissing noise coming from the engine. I went to investigate and discovered it was coming from the radiator. Since no one was around, I thought I would take off the radiator cap to see what was causing the hissing sound. I opened it while trying to look into it. Needless to say the explosion of hot water and steam burned the entire left side of my face.
I can say “lesson learned” from the mistake I made of opening a radiator that was hissing.
I know some mistakes are not as drastic as I just described. The point is, when we make a mistake, we should always ask, “What have I learned?” If you fail to take the lesson learned from your mistake, you are likely to repeat it.
If you are going to learn from your mistakes, you will have to risk being vulnerable with others around you who were impacted by your mistake. You will have to admit your mistake and ask them to help you to see what you can learn from the experience. Without vulnerability you risk learning nothing or repeating the mistake in the future.
Accepting your mistakes also helps you to accept your humanity.
Some folks like to think of themselves as perfect. Others know they are not perfect, but try to present the façade of perfection (or at least having it all together). But what we can learn from our mistakes is that we are not perfect. Rather we are all imperfect human beings trying to do our best.
For many of us that is a hard reality to embrace or to admit. But when we learn to accept our humanity through embracing our mistakes, we are freed to live without fear of failing.
Those who embrace their humanity and overcome their fear of failing go on to achieve great things. Fear of failing keeps us from reaching for our dreams.
Are you a prisoner to the fear of failing, or are you reaching for your dreams knowing that you will make mistakes along the way?
Remember: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” –Albert Einstein
If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.