Rule 9: Mistakes Don’t Matter

OK, let me say just a bit more:  “Mistakes don’t matter.  How you deal with them does.”  You see, we often get so caught up in fearing that we will make a mistake that we don’t stretch.

We stop ourselves before we even begin, or we freeze up in the midst of trying, all because we might make a mistake.  But that really is the nature of life.  We make mistakes, pick ourselves up, learn from the mistake, then move on.

Well, that SHOULD be the rhythm of life.  In fact, when we don’t live that way, we have trapped ouselves into what Carol Dweck refers to as a “fixed mindset.”

Dweck distinguishes between the fixed mindset that refers to our expectations that we have innate skills, natural abilities.  A mistake would seem to be an indication that we lack in skills or ability from this frame.  So, for instance, a child is told that she is a “natural athlete.”  As time goes on, the child fears that she cannot live up to that, so she either quits trying or constantly works to prove others right.  In either case, she comes to fear making a mistake.

The “growth mindset,” on the other hand, is the (correct) belief that we are all growing, developing individual capable of learning new skills and ideas.  In that frame, a mistake is just part of the process of learning.  In fact, mistakes may be one of the best ways of learning!

I help teach SCUBA classes.  In the beginning, I ran around trying to make sure the students made no mistakes.  Then the instructor pointed out that the students needed to make these mistakes in our controlled environment, so that they did not make them when it mattered.  I broke myself (mostly) of that habit, and instead turned to the idea of helping the students learn and recover from the mistakes.  I believe they are much better divers now.

As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Start taking the shots!  Make some mistakes, then decide what to do about them!

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