Image is courtesy of RBC Direct Investing.
You probably read the title of this article and thought, “What? Make mistakes? Why?” Now, let’s be clear I’m not telling you to make intentional mistakes but to accept the reality of them. Oftentimes when we make mistakes, whether that may be school-related or in daily life, it can make us feel frustrated and question our past selves.
According to Google, a mistake is “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.” We often fixate on ourselves making the “wrong” decision, but there isn’t an obvious line between right and wrong. It gets even more frustrating when we make the same mistakes over and over again after thinking, “I’ll never do that again!” But as humans with self-awareness of our thoughts, actions and feelings, and social anxiety, we often look at our own flaws more closely than others and assume others have seen them too, as explained in an article by Forbes. This can be even more applicable when you set high standards for yourself or are a perfectionist because it’s even harder to forget your mistakes. You might replay your mistakes on an endless loop at night, cringing at your past self, but it’s important to remember that mistakes are a part of life, and others may have been too busy to notice what you may have obsessed over the whole day.
When you make a mistake, try to have an open mindset and look at the positives of the mistake. Making mistakes is an opportunity for us to grow. A mistake can help us learn about ourselves, push us to be more resilient, and trigger our creativity and problem-solving skills. It’s also important to note that the mistakes we make are in the past and we can’t go back in time despite how much we think about them. So next time when you make a mistake (as it is bound to happen), think of it as a learning opportunity. At the moment, you might be stressed or humiliated or not necessarily in the “cup half full” mood so try to ask yourself the question of “so what?” Think about it slowly, so what is really going to happen because of this? There are small and large mistakes but it’s important to think about them. Will it matter in a few days, a month, a year or even 50 years from now? Although our minds can wander and wonder how our mistakes can have a ripple effect, be realistic. Will this one mistake on a test or voice crack in front of my class really affect me in the future? It can seem significant at the moment, but it’s going to be okay!
If we fixate too much on our mistakes, it can grow to a fear of failure or increased anxiety. Dwelling on past mistakes keeps us in a continual state of acknowledging and experiencing life’s negatives. This can negatively impact our mental, physical, and emotional health and hinder us from being our best selves. In an Inc. article, Erin Olivo, Ph.D., assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University, says, “Ruminating re-triggers all those same emotions - shame, sadness, anger - over and over. From your brain’s point of view, there is no difference emotionally between experiencing the negative event and thinking about the negative event. And when those negative emotions are elevated on a chronic basis, that’s stress.”
Learning From Mistakes
Acknowledge your errors
Before you can learn from your mistakes, you have to accept full responsibility for your role in the outcome. This can be uncomfortable for you to do, but according to a Forbes article, until you can say, “I messed up,” you aren’t ready to change. Sometimes mistakes can have a ripple effect, so in order to learn from them, try to pinpoint where it went wrong. It’s important to remember at this step, you are not trying to point out your flaws but rather see where the mistake happened to know what led to it.
Reflect on it
Although we don’t want to replay our mistakes or think about them constantly, it can be productive to reflect on them and ask ourselves some questions. What went wrong? What could I do better next time? What did I learn from this? It can be helpful to write your answers down so you can look back on them when you are making your plan.
Make a plan
Now that you know what the mistake was and what you can do better next time, make a plan to help you prevent yourself from making the same mistake again; how can you do better in the future? Your plan could include an accountability partner, writing reminders for yourself, or practicing a skill that could help you overcome that common mistake.
Give yourself reminders
When writing reminders, it’s not supposed to be a daily reminder beating yourself up about what you did wrong in the past but rather a reminder to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Mistakes often have patterns, for example, making math mistakes because I don’t consider positive and negative signs. Writing a reminder to myself when I practice can help me remember to watch out for those signs.
Mistakes are a normal part of life, so the best we can do is to learn and grow from them so they don’t happen as frequently!
The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.
- The Lion King
Article Author: Kelley Liang
Article Editors: Sherilyn Wen, Victoria Huang