Friday, April 10, 2009

Celebrate Your Mistakes

I am a perfectionist and am not happy about making mistakes, but Prof. Jaworowski, my professor in Legal Writing shared this nugget of wisdom:

Why You Should Celebrate Your Mistakes

When you make a mistake, big or small, cherish it like it's the most precious thing in the world.  Because in some ways, it is.

Most of us feel bad when we make mistakes, beat ourselves up about it, feel like failures, get mad at ourselves.

And that's only natural: most of us have been taught from a young age that mistakes are bad, that we should try to avoid mistakes.  We've been scolded when we make mistakes - at home, school and work.  Maybe not always, but probably enough times to make feeling bad about mistakes an unconscious reaction.

Yet without mistakes, we could not learn or grow.

If you think about it that way, mistakes should be cherished and celebrated for being one of the most amazing things in the world:  they make learning possible, they make growth and improvement possible.

By trial and error - trying things, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes - we have figured out how to make electric light, to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, to fly.

Mistakes make walking possible for the smallest toddler, make speect possible, make works of genius possible.

Think about how we learn: we don't just consume information about something and instantly know it or know how to do it.  You don't just read about painting, or writing, or computer programming, or baking, or playing the piano, and know how to do them right away.

Instead, you get information about something, from reading or from another person or from observing usually ... then you construct a model in your mind.. then you test it out by trying it in the real world.. then you make mistakes... then you revise the model based on the results of your real-world experimentation... and repeat, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, until you've pretty much learned how to do something.

That's how we learn as babies and toddlers, and how we learn as adults.  Trial and error, learning something new from each error.

Mistakes are how we learn to do something new - because if you succeed at something, it's probably something you already knew how to do.  You haven't really grown much from that success - at most it's the last step on your journey, not the whole journey.  Most of the journey was made up of mistakes, if it's a good journey.

So if you value learning, if you value growing and improving, then you should value mistakes.  They are amaing things that make a world of brilliance possible.

Celebrate your mistakes.  Cherish them.  Smile.

By Leo Babauta
Author of "The Power of Less.  The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essentials- in Work and in Life"

The difference between greatness and mediocrity
is often how an individual views a mistake.
-Nelson Boswell

1 comment:

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Mistakes are good for us if we are humble enough to admit that we committed a mistake and learn from it. My favorite maxim before was: improvement is the admittance of failure. But some people gloss over their mistakes and blame everybody else including God for their mistakes in life. These people will never learn the corresponding lesson on their mistake and are doomed to repeat it until eventually they learn to admit their mistake. Thanks for the meaty post. God bless you always.


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