Why You Need To Make Mistakes

Being a Pollyanna, seeing the world through rose colored glasses, living on cloud nine.

As a generally positive person, I have been “accused” of embodying each of these optimistic stereotypes. Although they don’t carry much weight in my mind, they do cause me to question if there is a “dark side” to positivity? Can someone be “too positive?” I believe that just like any other skill or strength, positivity needs to be refined to be truly effective.

It was the quest to cultivate a refined sense of positivity in my children that lead me to implement another facet to our dinner-time discussion. After we share our three good things we experienced during the day, we then take turns discussing what lesson we learned that day. The ability to learn from experiences- both positive and negative- is a crucial life skill that isn’t usually taught in schools today, so it is important that we take the time to equip our little people with this ability.

Heck, learning from experiences is a skill that we need to equip our society with that isn’t usually taught in businesses or organizations! I would love to see more weekly meetings start out with a roundtable discussion on three things that went well for the team that week and one lesson learned. When leaders (both parents and managers) demonstrate the ability to critically examine their behavior and admit what they did wrong or what they could have done better, the next generation is able to learn from those experiences as well.

Additionally, this continuous sharing of lessons learned shows that leaders can be both fallible and confident.

In preparing to share this latest twist to the nightly discussion, I wanted to find out more about the importance of exploring and learning from our mistakes. In my research I quickly found five main advantages, or gifts, from mistakes.

1. Mistakes bring clarity.

The word mistake often has a negative connotation, but that doesn’t have to be true. Mistakes help us see what we really want and how we want to live by connecting us with our commitments and values.

2. Mistakes lead to acceptance.

It is so much easier to judge others when we don’t acknowledge our own flaws. Thankfully, mistakes provide us the lens to appreciate both ourselves- flaws and all- and others. Mistakes prove that we are imperfect creatures and that is possible to laugh at, and love, our mistakes, for the lessons they teach us.

3. Mistakes provide necessary feedback.

Like it or not, the honest feedback gleaned from mistakes is invaluable. Often times we can trick ourselves into believing something is working or that if we just keep trying, the results will be different. Mistakes serve as mirrors into our action by providing actual feedback.

4. Mistakes serve as a compass. 

At first, mistakes can cause us to curl up in a fetal position or throw our hands up in defeat. But instead of quitting a project or passion because of a small bump in the road, we should use these failures (or mistakes) as guideposts in our journey. Think of small mistakes as the bumpers in a bowling lane. Yes, they slow the balls trajectory, but they also ensure that it will reach its final target.

5. Mistakes inspire. 

Mistakes gives us opportunity to view our actions in perfect, 20/20 hindsight vision. Once the pressure of being perfect has been relieved and we can look objectively on a situation, then we can proceed with a new set of rules. By making mistakes, we find out what worked well, what we will do differently, and what we will avoid all together!
We encourage you to check out this awesome article by Suzie Schwartz on what she learned from her mistakes.

Finally, I wanted to share a quote from Norm Brodsky that stopped me in my tracks. “It does no good to get through a crisis unless you learn its lessons.” As a Military spouse who has weathered multiple deployments, countless TDYs, and many cross-country moves these words rang especially true to me. If we don’t make the time or the concerted effort necessary to learn from the struggles we are continuously faced with in the chaotic lifestyle, we are cheating ourselves.

We aren’t growing or developing. We aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities presented to us to become stronger and more resilient. So it is the ability to reflect on our lessons learned through difficult times or mistakes that enables us to thrive, not just survive Military life!

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