What was your latest, greatest mistake? Was it when you attached the wrong client proposal, or maybe your idea for that leads campaign that went over budget and ended in record-low quarterly sales…? Or maybe you can’t even talk about it because it’s too embarrassing!
Understandable, but think about this for a moment: isn’t the shame you feel over your error, whatever it was, worse than simply admitting you were wrong and moving on? Shame causes us to try and hide our slip-ups, but keeping them locked in our heads actually feeds their power. The resulting anxiety drags us down by forcing us to cover up or overcompensate. Fear increases because, as most of us know, a cover up nearly always comes back to bite us…and usually at the most inopportune time possible.In truth, every mistake – big, small, or in-between – is actually a precious gift (even if its wrapping is revolting). Changing your attitude toward failure can help you face it and grow stronger as a result.
- Making mistakes is a sign that we’re taking risks. People who don’t take risks trade learning and progress for safety. Feel good about trying and failing rather than doing nothing. In fact, sit down and create your own personal resume of flops. Be as detailed and thorough as possible. Now, think about what each item on your tally of turkeys taught you, or how something positive came from it. You may find that some of those on-the-job mishaps actually furthered your career.
- The pain from making a mistake – dire consequences, embarrassment, whatever – is life’s built-in success training. Actually, the worse the fallout, the easier it will be to not repeat the blunder. This forges a path to the attitudes and behaviors that do work!
- When you make a mistake and own it, you take the pressure off yourself to be “perfect.” Perfection is an illusion anyway. Black-and-white standards are impractical, angst-provoking, and make daily life into something like walking a tightrope. Living in the gray areas is genuine and a huge relief.
- Mistakes show us the importance of humility and honesty, but only if we consciously take responsibility for them. If we do not, it’s possible that the character defect underlying the mistake will lead to a pattern of making similar gaffes. Those who avoid owning their flaws by habitually covering up or lying to others are also being dishonest with themselves. Untruthfulness catches up to us because it takes more and more effort to live with deceit. By the way, this often causes people to take on self-destructive habits to help distract them from reality and guilt.
- Not only does owning mistakes provide a model of humbleness and integrity; it helps you judge your coworkers and friends less harshly when they mess up. This is an opportunity to develop empathy, as you grow to understand that mistakes are a direct hit to our ego and therefore difficult to handle – not only for you, but for everyone!
Hopefully, you’ll learn to take a kinder view of your “wrong” choices or miscalculations. But if all else fails and you’re spiraling into obsessive self-flagellation over something you did, remember this much at least: “A mistake a day keeps perfectionism at bay.”