What is a mistake?
The Cambridge English dictionary definition is ‘an action, decision, or judgement that produces an unwanted or unintentional result’. See, even from its very root it is recognised as coming from someone who didn’t mean to do it. So why are the connotations surrounding this phenomenon so harsh and unforgiving and why do humans set such restrictive and, frankly, unrealistic expectations towards those (FYI: everyone!) who commit mistakes? Millions of people suffer what is sometimes lifelong guilt and grief from errors they have made. And the worst thing is that the penance is usually handed to them not by their parent, teacher or partner – which is bad enough – but rather by the person who made the wrong decision in the first place: THEMSELVES.
But by blaming others or ourselves for making mistakes we are, in fact, our own enemies when the process itself is not a defect but one of our primary natural tools we use to learn about life and our environment and to expand our life experience. We may as well punish ourselves for breathing or going to the toilet (although that one can also be known as ‘having an accident’…).
When most days deliver us new situations, new scenarios, new challenges, how could we automatically know what path to follow and which turn is the correct one? When a baby decides to try walking we don’t punish them for falling over because we know they will have to try several times to stand before they learn just the right amount of balance and coordination needed in order to stay up, let alone move forward. And when it comes to the old idea that one should stop ‘making mistakes’ by a certain age (adulthood?), who determined that unrealistic expectation based on a flawed premise? The fact is that we never cease to learn. It’s an ongoing adventure. And to learn one must accept that our greatest too is trial and error.
It’s ironic that we could get ‘making mistakes’ so wrong, isn’t it…?