What comes to mind when you think of “mistake?” Typically, it’s “I’m wrong” or “I’ve done something wrong.” Your failure suddenly translates through negative self-talk as “I’m a failure.” Instead, you should rethink your position on that idea and make more mistakes.
You may make mistakes every day of your life and plague yourself with guilt because of it. Now imagine a child carrying that heavy weight of guilt around when they could use mistakes as a learning opportunity. Perfection is overrated — make more mistakes!
It’s difficult for both parents and children to overcome negative perceptions of mistakes, but when you make more mistakes, you create more learning opportunities when mistakes become areas of improvement. Eventually, you succeed at your goal and feel positive about yourself.
Science Says It’s Good for You to Make Mistakes
One MRI study in 2015 found that making a mistake has the potential to feel rewarding if the brain is given an opportunity to learn from the mistake and assess options. When the brain obtains enough data to contextualize a situation and choices it leans toward reinforcement instead of avoidance, triggering the “ventral striatum,” or reward circuit area, of the brain.
The brain has two ways of learning: avoidance learning and reward-based learning. With avoidance-based learning, the brain trains itself to avoid making a mistake, whereas reward-based learning provides a positive reinforcement when the right answer is reached. While many children are raised with positive reinforcement these days, they still associate “mistake” with “failure.”
A recent study revealed that children with growth mindsets paid more attention to errors and improved their performance after the mistake was made. The fixed mindset (intelligence set in stone) participants were only likely to improve at a task if they also paid close attention to the “why” behind their errors.
Instead of children or adults shying away from mistake discussions, they should consider mistakes as areas of improvement and ways to learn about life and oneself:
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1. Mistakes Teach Life Lessons
Making a mistake is part of human nature — and you learn about life when you learn from your mistakes. See your mistakes as lessons and you’ll lose your fear of making mistakes in the first place.
Many life lessons are bittersweet, but they also bring you relief even when you learn it the hard way.
2. Mistakes Teach Forgiveness
It’s easy to forgive someone when they forget something off of the grocery list. A simple reminder solves the problem. It’s more difficult when you attach meaning to the consequence of the mistake, such as a child or spouse breaking a vase that belonged to your mother who passed away when you were twelve.
However, if you’ve broken something precious to someone else, you’re able to empathize with them, offer a sincere apology and feel the relief that comes with being forgiven. You’re also able to extend forgiveness and pass on the good vibes.
3. Mistakes Release Fear
Never making a mistake is the worst mistake you could make. When you expect to make a mistake and let fear and anxiety rule your logic, attitude and actions, you will make one. Relax and say to yourself: “Yeah, I’m probably going to make a mistake, but there’s always another way to get it done.”
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, after all. Let mistakes release your fears.
4. Mistakes Make Growth Possible
Instead of remaining stuck, see mistakes and potential mistakes as opportunities for growth. Permit yourself to make mistakes.
When you learned to swim, you made mistakes but eventually succeeded. It was the same with learning how to ride a bike. When you make mistakes in relationships and overcome them — or overcome them in a way you didn’t expect — you grow as a person.
5. Mistakes Help You Discover Who You Are
For every mistake you make, you discover more about yourself. You learn more about your limits, capabilities, likes and dislikes and what you can do or won’t do:
- You know that you’re allergic to chocolate, that you hate rabbits and love rock climbing.
- You know that you can’t be in a relationship with someone who is too distant, too clingy or clips their toenails in the living room.
- You know that your humor may sometimes go too far, but most of the time you’re great at making people laugh by having learned to laugh at yourself.
- You know that you’re wicked good at geometry but need to work on your pool game.
Don’t give up or equate making a mistake with being a failure. Look closely at the errors and contextualize your choices. How and why did this occur?
Mistakes teach life lessons. They also teach us how to forgive and even help us release fear. Mistakes show you more about yourself and make growth possible. So? Make a mistake today!
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