21. Making Mistakes

Good morning and welcome to your twenty-first meditation. How do you respond to the mistakes that you make? Do they frustrate you? Do you get angry and punish yourself? Do you regret having made them? All of these reactions are perfectly normal, but guess what? These types of reactions are mistakes in themselves. But don’t worry! The whole purpose of today’s meditation is to remind you of an idea that is oddly overlooked in our increasingly fast-paced and demanding world: Mistakes are good! Sometimes we hear that it’s ok to make mistakes, as if they were a disagreeable, but ultimately inevitable part of the human experience, and so must be tolerated. But this attitude fails to see how much can be gained by making them and how much can be missed by avoiding them.

So why are mistakes so great? Mistakes help us to learn. And even if they make you uncomfortable or embarrassed, angry or frustrated, you can learn from that too! In fact, sometimes it is just these unpleasant feelings aroused in us that act as the engine for learning. For example, it is very common for adults who are learning a second language to be shy about speaking. They are afraid that they will embarrass themselves by speaking poorly, and so decline to say anything at all. And yet it is exactly those moments that you make the biggest fool of yourself that you remember best. The more people that laugh at your faux pas, the more likely you are to remember that mistake and be sure to avoid it in the future. And perhaps they don’t laugh, but instead correct you. Thanks to your courage to make that mistake you have now earned yourself a free language lesson. Now imagine a scenario where you don’t speak. You will have missed out on those excellent opportunities to improve. And for what? Pride?

And this principle of mistakes opening the door to learning is not unique to language acquisition. It translates neatly into your native tongue as well. Those moments when we feel that we have asked a stupid question; when we’ve accidentally said something untoward; when we’ve opened ourselves up to criticism and been pilloried. We remember these moments and we learn from them. And this is how we improve. Of course, this is not an endorsement of reckless or careless behaviour. There is such a thing as harmful mistakes and, although even they can be excellent teachers, it is all of our responsibility to do our best to avoid them. This is about mistakes made in good faith; in the interest of stretching yourself; of personal growth; of trying to be better. So go ahead and put your pride on the line. It’s a more fun and exciting way to live, and what you stand to gain is far more valuable than whatever you feel you may be sacrificing. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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