Is There Value in Making Mistakes?

In much of the Western world, we are taught that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs, for fear of reprisal and punishment. Yet learning to fear your mistakes leads to repressed creativity and innovation. We may believe that an error will be perceived as a sign of weakness, stupidity or incompetence and so you stop attempting new things.

Ralph Nader has said, “Your best teacher is your last mistake.” How can you heal that rift between the fear and the learning?

MistakesKeep in mind that some of our greatest inventions came about as the result of a mistake. Attempting something new to you may succeed or fail, but it is only in the experimentation that you can learn what works or does not. In that experimentation you learn valuable risk-taking and problem-solving skills, as well as confidence.

The learning you receive from experiencing errors in judgment with others teaches you how to create healthy relationships; the consequences of a mistake teach you what to do or to avoid in that relationship. Mistakes in your work lead to competence and new ways of doing things; new processes or systems come to light.  In making an error and observing the result, you can also observe what matters to you most. A perceived “small mistake” may be more easily forgiven and forgotten than what we believe is a “big” one.

George Bernard Shaw, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

It might be an interesting study to allow a day for deliberate mistake-making. Take a trip to a frequently-visited spot and turn left instead of right – what new vistas open up? What new discoveries? Release yourself from judgment about the consequences and allow yourself to be in the moment.

And in that moment there are no mistakes.

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