How were you taught to address and deal with mistakes?
Were you verbally chastised to the point that you cringed, or were you asked to embrace each mistake as an opportunity to learn and get better? How can you improve and rectify something if you aren’t given the chance to make blunders and celebrate fixing them?
Let me illustrate this with a personal story. When my daughter was four years old, she spilled milk on the kitchen table and it dripped onto the floor. She burst into tears. As I watched this unfold, I wondered how I could disrupt this behavior.
Did I really want her to go through life crying every time she made mistakes?
I asked her, “Why are you crying?”
She replied, “Daddy gets mad when I spill milk.”
“Instead of crying, how can you fix this?”
She was startled by the question and I could see her little mind racing. Several minutes passed before she answered.
“I could get a towel and clean it up!” she replied as her face lit up.
She raced off and got a towel and cleaned up the milk. The next time something happened, all it took was one look from me as she started to tear up, and she asked, “How can I fix this?”, at which point she laughed and came up with the answer herself. The beauty in this is that she stopped crying whenever she made a flub and looked for a solution instead.
This illustration is not meant to disparage my husband’s response but instead to show how parents dealing with something as simple as spilled milk can affect how making mistakes is perceived. I explained the situation to my husband and this new awareness helped him change how he dealt with errors she made in the future.
Don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes.
Acknowledge it and ask yourself, “How can I fix this? What have I learned from this slip-up? How can I avoid repeating it in the future? How can I help others not make the same mistake?” Learn from the lessons embedded in the mistake, then celebrate that you’ll make one less mistake in the future!
Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others. ― Brandon Mull, Fablehaven