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July 13, 2022

New Mistakes

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Something that’s really unfortunate is our collective relationship with making mistakes. Logically we have the opinion that mistakes are learning opportunities, but deeply embedded in our human development we’ve created an avoidant relationship with mistakes.

Originally as babies, we couldn’t be held accountable to anything. Mistakes were expected and to us, had no consequences. We could throw temper tantrums and soil ourselves without any judgment from others because we didn’t know any different. Then as young kids we were constantly exploring our environment, learning more about how things work. We were in more control of ourselves but still acting without any real expectations, carrying a youthful naivety that taught us many lessons. Mistakes were simply data points we could use to better understand how the world works around us.

But then this relationship shifts around adolescents. In this phase of life we tend to get hyper-conscious about what we’re doing and how we’re being perceived. We’re much more calculated about the things we do so that we don’t draw too much negative attention our way. Making mistakes leaves us vulnerable to this negative judgment, so we act more conservatively and without taking as many social risks. Then as adults (and this is probably overgeneralized) we’re completely accountable to taking care of ourselves and we focus on the things that work well so that we can get predictable results for ourselves. A mistake is often seen as a representation of our capabilities, and because of that, we usually try to avoid making them.

To that last point - While we’d rather perform well than make mistakes, we really need to give ourselves more permission to make mistakes. Not repeating the same problems over and over again, that suggests that we're unwilling to learn, but making new mistakes. Entering new environments, trying things a new way, making new decisions and seeing how new standards work for you. Improvement comes from innovation and discovering new ways to do things more efficiently, effectively, and reliably. You cannot expect things to change unless you change the things you do, and that’s why I’m telling you it’s okay to make new mistakes in the name of growth.

To wrap up this thought and integrate it into your life let me ask you this question - What same old thing do you want to try doing a new way?

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