It happens everyday. We mess up. We make mistakes. Imperfect people make imperfect choices. We live in flawed communities with faulty relationships, all in the midst of a culture striving to be better. Part of the striving includes inevitable failure. But how do we make sure we fail forward?
Believe it or not, every situation, season and setting are an opportunity to learn. Pain is a faithful teacher. Like a kid falling off a bike, scraped knees can either be the evidence of learning or of giving up.
The first step is to truly believe that mistakes are opportunities. We have to be more committed to growing than we are afraid of suffering. A lot of us are looking for reasons to justify our hurt, peering around every corner for the inevitable foot to fall.
We look at others and imagine it came easy for them. We imagine they roll out of bed looking like that or earning that much money or capable of that much wisdom. There are certainly gifts that set us up, but nobody is successful (by any definition of the term) without having learned from mistakes.
The way we approach mistakes will determine how we leave them. A healthy perspective about breaking some eggs to make some omelets will go a long way.
Our brain is very good at protecting itself. As soon as a mistake is made, we start to look for someone to blame. Our finger extends and starts to wave outward. There are patterns of thinking and behavior we have developed and the brain’s natural tendency is to reinforce what it knows.
We develop a victim mentality that does not take ownership or responsibility for ourselves. Even if things are not truly our fault, we have to be on the lookout for our agency and its role in the mistake. The only way we can change for the better is to recognize that we have some ownership, some influence, some responsibility in what is happening.
On the other extreme, we learn from challenges by separating what we are doing from who we are. Taking ownership for our mistakes is not the same thing as letting our mistakes define us.
Every decision is not a microcosm of who you are. It is a part of who you are. A part that can be changed and redeemed. We’ve got to learn to separate the part from the whole if we want any chance of learning.
The best tool for learning is having an intentional vision of where we are going. It helps us see where and why we are falling short, helps motivate us past our fear of rejection, and it gives us a reason to strive, to be better, to learn.
If we are creating something, we are better suited to learn from our mistakes and continue on the journey, the quest toward the purpose. In the absence of vision, we just don’t want to make a mistake. The fear of imperfection is the inevitable stop-gap vision we humans adopt. And it isn’t the best. It doesn’t motivate.
Our mistakes are part of the journey. They are the terrain of experiences on the map guiding us towards our purpose. Sometimes we need to zoom out and see the whole map and where we are on the journey, appreciate the cause and effect, and make the most our of the opportunity of today.