Why You Should Celebrate Your Mistakes

Zen Habits

Hailing from Guam it's a pleasure to introduce Leo Babauta, who will be providing the Chelsey community with inspiration and tactics on setting and achieving your goals each and every week, check out his blog Zen Habits

When you make a mistake, big or small, cherish it like it’s the most precious thing in the world. Because in some ways, it is.

Smile sweetie!!

Most of us feel bad when we make mistakes, beat ourselves up about it, feel like failures, get mad at ourselves. 

And that’s only natural: most of us have been taught from a young age that mistakes are bad, that we should try to avoid mistakes. We’ve been scolded when we make mistakes — at home, school and work. Maybe not always, but probably enough times to make feeling bad about mistakes an unconscious reaction.

Yet without mistakes, we could not learn or grow.

If you think about it that way, mistakes should be cherished and celebrated for being one of the most amazing things in the world: they make learning possible, they make growth and improvement possible.

By trial and error — trying things, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes — we have figured out how to make electric light, to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, to fly.

Mistakes make walking possible for the smallest toddler, make speech possible, make works of genius possible.

Think about how we learn: we don’t just consume information about something and instantly know it or know how to do it. You don’t just read about painting, or writing, or computer programming, or baking, or playing the piano, and know how to do them right away.

Instead, you get information about something, from reading or from another person or from observing usually … then you construct a model in your mind … then you test it out by trying it in the real world … then you make mistakes … then you revise the model based on the results of your real-world experimentation … and repeat, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, until you’ve pretty much learned how to do something.

That’s how we learn as babies and toddlers, and how we learn as adults. Trial and error, learning something new from each error.

Mistakes are how we learn to do something new — because if you succeed at something, it’s probably something you already knew how to do. You haven’t really grown much from that success — at most it’s the last step on your journey, not the whole journey. Most of the journey was made up of mistakes, if it’s a good journey.

So if you value learning, if you value growing and improving, then you should value mistakes. They are amazing things that make a world of brilliance possible.

Celebrate your mistakes. Cherish them. Smile.

 
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  • Starlite5 says
    So true, alas like most people I've learnt the hard way to be more kind to myself when I've stuffed up after all , like Babauta says it's the only way to learn.

    I used to take failure so personally, and it was hard not to after being brought up to always strive to be or want more and while there's no harm in that unfortunately I wasn't taught that it was ok when things would go askew and how to use every opportunity good or bad to my advantage. I suppose that's why it's taken the last 20 years of my life to get to where I am today simply because I'd been too busy beating myself up about the shoulda/coulda/woulda things when I just wanted someone to say it was ok to fail and not take it to heart.

    What I've learnt recently though, and thanks to my kids, that Mum's do make mistakes and as long as I acknowledge them and apologise then everyone gets on with life and more importantly no lingering hangups about "mistakes".
  • KH says
    I hope I'm growing a lot then!

    Actually, I'm probably not, I've always been too careful not to make too many mistakes.

    Guess this is advice I need to take.
  • Wice says
    Yes mistakes can be useful but so is doing it right. I would rather take more time to do something properly - to do my best every time and if it fails, well then I have to learn from where I went wrong. I often think of one near and dear to me who will blindly go ahead with something without looking at the instructioins. He will waste so much time and invariably things go wrong. To me this is such a waste of energy - just like repeating mistakes. Mistakes are only valuable if you don't keep making the same ones over an over agan which sadly, seems to be the way far too often.

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