Whether we are talking about an honest one, a little one, or a great big oh #$%^&@! one, we all have made mistakes. I’ve come to believe that the way we view and how we respond to them plays a huge role in our attitude, approach and results in life.
How we view mistakes determines how (or whether) we use them to make our lives and results better … or not. If we see mistakes as problems or a failure, we may want to deny, hide or try to forget them. If, however, we realize they are a natural result of trying something and that, in fact, they can be “portals to discovery,” as James Joyce once said, we will acknowledge, explore and use them to advance us toward our goals.
Joyce is right, but like most good poets, in making his point eloquently, he makes an important assumption. Can mistakes be portals to discovery? Yes. Do we always view them or use them in that way? No. The portal is there, but if we don’t see it or use it, it might as well not be there. So, in deference to the author, let me propose a small adjustment: “Mistakes can be portals to discovery.” But those portals will only make a difference when we choose to see them that way.
If you want to progress, learn and move closer to your goals. If you want to live a fuller, more productive, and happier life, you must choose to see mistakes as portals to discovery. The choice is yours, and the choice will make all the difference. So ask yourself:
- How do I feel about my mistakes?
- What is my immediate reaction when I mess up? Do I become angry? Brood? Dwell on the issue? Or do I let it go and focus on overcoming the problem?
- How often or consistently do I try to learn from my mistakes?
- What is the last important lesson I learned from a mess up? What are three of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my own mistakes?
Now, with the understanding that mistakes can be positive, I encourage you to:
- Try something new, without fear of failure.
- If you make a mistake, find the lesson in it. Learn from it. Grow. Figure out what you can do better next time.
- Try again, applying the lessons you’ve learned.