May
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A mistake is a terrible thing to waste

A mistake is a terrible thing to waste
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
~George Bernard Shaw

I have clients (and colleagues, and friends, and family members…and myself at times) who are so afraid of messing up that they don’t do anything. Who are interested in learning a new skill or stepping up at work or going after their dream, but stop themselves before they move forward because they hate the thought of making a blunder or seeming like they don’t know what they’re doing.

But doing nothing is worse than making a mistake by far. It keeps us stagnant and, at times, bored. It keeps us from learning and growing. It keeps us from connecting with other people and stretching beyond what we know.

So what if you don’t know what you’re doing? What if you might make a fool of yourself, or try something and fail? How can we let that be okay when we’re driven to excel, to look like we know nearly everything, to always do our best?

What if our best includes making mistakes so that we can learn new things? That’s a paradigm shift. Remember, I’m the one who didn’t like learning to ski because I wasn’t good at it at first. I didn’t want to fall down; instead I wanted to ski flawlessly down the mountain the first time. So I know how to learn to be okay with making mistakes – and as I’ve shared my experiences with my clients, they share theirs with me. And together we’ve learned to:

  • admit to others when we’re trying something new, so that when we stumble (or fall) they’re not as shocked
  • ask for help (and patience) as we try new things
  • celebrate our new learnings (and ourselves) along the way – even our mistakes
  • break our dreams, goals, and new assignments down into smaller pieces, so that they’re not as daunting and if (or when) we do make mistakes, the mistakes have fewer negative ramifications

Allowing ourselves to make mistakes is the only way we can allow ourselves to try, learn, and do new things. It is more honorable and useful than doing nothing. But it takes Thoughtful preparation and patience, and often a sense of humor!

Try something new. Make a mistake. Keep going.

How do you let yourself make mistakes to learn?
Please leave a comment to share.

For support in making mistakes and being okay with that, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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What People Are Saying

Yuki Yang   |   21 May 2013
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Reply

Thank you for this post! A great reminder to get out of my comfort zone and “thoughtfully prepare” as I live on the edges. I didn’t prepare as well as I could’ve yesterday but now I know.

Lisa Kohn   |   21 May 2013
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Reply

Thanks for your thoughts Yuki. I like “thoughtfully prepare” – and also looking at mistakes as opportunities to learn and do it differently next time. I’m practicing that now!