Mistakes: We all make them. What can we learn from them?

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”Albert Einstein

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? 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 do 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.

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.” – Steve Jobs

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, which had been running for 30 minutes. I went to investigate and discovered it was coming from 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 making a hissing noise.

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.

Accepting your mistakes also helps you to accept your fallibility.

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 no one is perfect.

For many of us that is a hard reality to embrace or to admit. For some who grew up in dysfunctional families, acknowledging anything less than perfection is difficult as it would expose problems under the surface. But when we learn to accept our fallibility through embracing our mistakes, we are freed to live without fear of failing or fear of others finding out our secrets.

Those who embrace their fallibility 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?

If you do not admit and take responsibility for your mistakes, ask yourself why not? Is it because you think you’re somehow perfect, never making a mistake? Or are you afraid that others will think less of you for admitting what you already know to be true? Hopefully, understanding why you are not admitting or taking responsibility for your mistakes will help you be more honest with yourself and others.

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 errol@errolcarrim.com to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.