Errors, mistakes, and failures are part of the life experience. Without them we will never achieve success. Spending inordinate time and energy avoiding mistakes, covering up failures, and avoiding changing course prevents people from moving along in their journey of life. There is no such thing as a risk-free life. Often, failure to act is a failure to live and can be the biggest mistake of all.
People who have made the most mistakes also have enjoyed the greatest successes.
However, all mistakes and failures are not equal. We want to avoid failure that stems from poor preparation, carelessness, or failure to be objective about the situation. Yet we don’t want to live in fear of making mistakes and end up running away from uncertainty.
Making the right kind of mistakes and avoiding the wrong kind involve the following:
1. Being objective about ourselves, others, and the situation,
2. Developing and practicing needed skills (whether in relationship, business, or sports), and
3. Assessing the risk to us and others of our actions.
The water ski legend Andy Mapple teaches that you never make a perfect slalom pass. Moreover, the goal is not to make a perfect pass. The goal is to be able to know what mistake you’re making while you’re making it, so that you can quickly adjust and compensate for it while skiing.
This is a great analogy for most aspects of life, such as relationships. No relationship is perfect. By eliminating the expectation that a relationship is either perfect or doomed and a waste of time, you can focus on improving your ability to better a relationship through practice. You can develop the ability to see more quickly how you are being triggered and to appropriately adjust your responses, OR to change your entire course regarding the relationship.
Relationships are a series of experiences and adjustments. The more we look at the relationship objectively, improve relationship skills, and consider the potential outcome of our choices, the more enriched our relationships become.
If we expect mistakes, but practice to reduce them, we end up making more interesting and less painful mistakes, and we will enjoy many rewarding successes along the way.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
Recommended: Walt Disney’s Biography.
Read “Fear of failure: ‘I’m worried about failing.’”