Reading the title of this post it may sound I am being as foolish and narcissistic as someone who calls themselves a ‘stable genius’ but allow me to explain. I tell people not to make mistakes in their lives. This may sound like creating both unrealistic expectations, but also putting a lot of pressure on themselves. It would be if that meant trying to be perfect. That is not what we are advocating here. To understand what we mean by not making mistakes, we must first look at how the average person defines a mistake. It is usually an action or judgment that is wrong. Furthermore, it is something they spend a great deal of time regretting, agonizing over, beating themselves up about…you get the idea.
Margie will be the first to tell you that I, on occasion, make a judgement or take an action that is wrong. I know, hard to believe, but it is true. If that is true, however, how can I say that I do not make mistakes? To me it is the use of the word ‘mistake’ that is what is a mistake itself. I have learned a great deal of maintaining a positive outlook when I do something a little south of correct is to say, “I have not made a mistake. I have created a learning experience.” This may sound like a polite way of excusing yourself, but it is much more. When we view something as a mistake, we feel as though we have failed. We have done something wrong and that is it. When we say we have created a learning experience we not only eliminate a good deal of the negative connotation behind our actions, but create a possible positive outcome of our incorrect action.
Let take the action of doing something to upset your spouse. Let us say you used a word that really upset your spouse. You did not think it had such a negative meaning, but to them it was truly hurtful or offensive. You could, and should, apologize and let them know your intent was not to hurt them. This is what you would do with a mistake. A learning experience may be to inquire what a better way to express your feelings might be. To inquire why they find that word so hurtful. Maybe you came home a little later than expected and find your partner less than amorous. Again, begin with an apology. Then follow up with some questions that will turn this mistake into a learning experience. Did they want you to call even if it meant pulling over and adding a few minutes to being late? Should you have given yourself a little more wiggle room when stating what time you would be home? Almost any misunderstanding in any relationship can be turned into a learning experience to bring both parties closer. This is true as much for coworkers and friends as it is for intimate relationships.
How about mistakes at work? Those sure are fun aren’t they? You not only run the risk of looking foolish, but it may end up costing you the very source of income you rely on. By turning mistakes at work into learning experiences, you can actually become an employee the boss knows they can rely on. The first thing is to own your mistakes. A lot of people afraid of looking foolish or worried about what the boss may think of them, look for others to blame. This does not cast us in the best light. By taking responsible for your own mistakes the boss will realize you are someone who does not shy from responsibility and can be relied on to tell the truth. Following that up by stating what you will do better to avoid the mistake in the future as well as asking if there are any additional steps they would suggest will show you to be an employee who is committed to learning from their mistakes and always improving. These are opportunities you can only have when you do make a mistake. Do not go into work tomorrow looking to screw up, but when you do, turn it into a learning experience.
Saying and feeling we just make mistakes and do things wrong will leave us feeling depressed and not motivated to create an amazing life. Realizing every mistake that we make can set us up to learn new and interesting ways to improve both ourselves and our situations in life with at least soften the blow of the mistake. Practice this enough and you may find yourself seeing mistakes for what they truly are – stepping stones to success.