Five ways to turn your mistakes into your biggest assets
We’ve all had that ‘Oh shit!’ moment when sending a text to the person you’re talking about, missing a deadline or accidentally deleting a piece of work that took hours. There’s a sinking feeling in your stomach when the realisation hits and it turns into a frantic rush to rectify the problem.
Mistakes happen all the time and by everyone, yet the world we’re in does a great job of hiding mistakes and making everything look seamless and effortless. If your thought process isn’t managed properly, making mistakes can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a loss of confidence.
But it turns out, there’s a lot to be said about some healthy mistake making. Here are my top 5 ways to make the best of ‘woopsie daisy’ moments and to embrace the ‘oh shits'.
Make a list
If you ask anyone about mistake making everyone will say that the silver lining to be found is that you will learn something.
It’s true that the main positive that can come from making a mistake is learning something new that will move you forward, even if it’s what not to do. But it’s important to ensure our first thought when we make a mistake is not panic and self-sabotage, but is focused on the learning and the growth that comes from that.
To solidify the anticipation of a lesson, start making a mistakes and learnings list. On one side write down the mistake and on the other write down the lesson and how you will do it next time to avoid the mistake.
By doing this on a regular basis, you will calm the initial worry because you are already anticipating the lesson and the new knowledge that you’re gaining. Before you know it, mistakes will have a whole new meaning - one of growth and ways to improve next time.
No beginner ever started out without making a mistake. If you are making a mistake, you are likely trying something new. Whether that newness is around juggling more than usual or trying something for the first time, it’s often a sign of exploring the unknown.
Beginner’s Mind is a Buddhist concept. To have a beginner’s mind is to see many possibilities for something. To have an expert mind is to see few. By adopting the beginner’s mind you are open to new experiences, learnings, outcomes and feelings.
Experiment with channelling a beginner’s mind by seeking out unexpected outcomes, and removing expectations of yourself. With this mindset, suddenly a mistake is no longer a mistake, but instead, it’s one of life’s curious outcomes.
Look at the science
Mistakes could actually make you more likeable! Let me explain.
In Vanessa Van Edwards’s book Captivate, she references a study that looked at how vulnerabilities are perceived by others. The experiment involved a typically ‘cool’ guy walking into a room twice. The first time he walks in smooth, charming and collected, the second time he ‘accidentally’ trips.
Two groups were asked to rank how likeable he was based on his entrance. Interestingly, on the second time, when he trips, he was ranked higher than he was on the first. This experiment showed that people’s vulnerabilities actually make them more likeable and appealing to other people. How exciting!
So although your colleagues might momentarily find you annoying for messing up in a work situation, once you own up to your mistakes and send your apologies, then you actually become more likeable in the process.
Could it be a sign?
Sometimes, if you are making many of the same mistakes on a regular basis, it could be a big old sign from the universe that its time to move on from that particular thing.
Take a step back and assess the situation. Do you enjoy what you are doing? Are you making mistakes because you just don’t care about it? Can you find a way to delegate the thing that’s a constant hiccup? What is the bigger picture telling you here?
Mistakes contribute to a perfectionist's recovery
Mistake making in the life of a perfectionist is exhausting.
For those that don’t know, real perfectionists experience an unrelenting need to achieve standards that are impossible to reach and wrap their self-worth up in the achievement of those things, which results in a constant state of failure. Perfectionism is often wrongly glorified in job interviews to boast about organisation skills, but its used completely incorrectly.
As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve learnt that we need to let go of the idea of a perfect outcome because it doesn’t exist. Being able to make mistakes, realise that nothing truly terrible happens and we are all human, is a vital step in a perfectionist’s recovery.
But whats important here is to manage the thought process that goes with it. Find the lesson, add it to your list, and challenge any self-sabotaging thoughts with more forgiving ones.
To my perfectionist pals, embrace your mistakes because no one is perfect and good enough is good enough.
A person who never made a mistake is a person who never tried anything new.
Growing, discovering life’s curious outcomes, helping perfectionists make peace with their abilities and becoming more liked in the process - mistakes aren’t all that bad after all!
So let us celebrate the royal fuck ups and laugh at the ‘buggeration’s. No one has gone through life without making a mistake and that’s what makes life interesting!