How satisfied are you when you make mistakes? If you’re like most of us, you probably feel pretty bummed. And that attitude is holding you back from doing your best work.
It is a good thing to make mistakes – in fact, you should be trying to make more of them.
The best thing about mistakes
As the image says, “mistakes are proof you are trying”.
The best thing about a mistake is that it shows that you’re giving something new a go. If you already knew exactly how to do something, and could do it well, you wouldn’t be making any mistakes. And you wouldn’t be learning and growing.
The (dis)comfort of the comfort zone
Staying in your comfort zone can feel, well, comfortable. But it keeps you playing small. It gives you what you’ve already got. There’s no learning, no growth, no chance to make progress.
Now, there is a time and a place for sticking to what you know works. If you’ve just been through, or are currently going through, a major life change, then playing it safe can be a really, really good option. There’s no sense in making things harder for yourself.
But if you continue to play it safe when everything around you is sorted and settled, then you’d better make peace with never seeing anything better than what you’re currently experiencing. Over time, that can start to feel awfully limiting. Are you really prepared to stay exactly where you are for however many decades you have left on this Earth?
Embrace the discomfort of when you make mistakes
Of course it feels uncomfortable to make a mistake, let alone to keep making mistakes.
But where exactly do you think humanity would be if every innovator gave up after their first “mistake”? Well, we wouldn’t have innovators for a start. Because I’m pretty sure that no one invents the wheel on their first try!
When we tackle an experiment, it’s best to do so in the hope that we’ll get a good outcome, and in the knowledge that it might not turn out quite how we wanted or expected it to. But even unexpected or unwanted results contain useful information that can help us refine our experiment and try again, in a more informed way.
I believe that the only way to “fail” when we’re trying something new is to allow an unwanted or unexpected result to derail our efforts and cause us to quit experimenting.
Use your strengths to make better mistakes
Your Genius* strengths are your powerhouse for producing great results, looking after your wellbeing, and enjoying yourself along the way.
Think of new ways you can use your Genius strengths – dialling them up or down, pairing them with other strengths, or applying them in a different way or to a different task.
You’re more likely to stick with plans and achieve your goals when you’re using your Genius strengths. That’s because they energise you as you use them, and they feel more engaging and rewarding. Not to mention the great results you’re able to get when you use them strategically.
You won’t always perform flawlessly when you use your Genius strengths, but you will be more likely to dust yourself off and go again.
If you want to learn more about how to use your strengths to run smart experiments and create the kind of life and work you’ve been dreaming of, then my book ‘Unleash Your Awesome‘ is perfect for you! It’s full of practical exercises and strategies to help you make the most of your strengths, and bring more of your special magic to the world. You can also get your very own set of The Strengths Deck cards over in the shop.
Create a team of "mistake cheerleaders"
You are not the only person who has ever, or will ever, make mistakes. And you’ve got plenty more mistakes left to make!
To stay on-track, sometimes you need some cheerleaders who will gather around you and pump up your confidence. Look for the people in your life who have made their fair share of mistakes and kept going – they get it! Talk to them about what you’re working on, and ask what they’re working on.
Cheer one another on in you experiments. Share your ups and downs. And celebrate your wins and the losses equally. Because one gets you closer to your goal, and the other one helps you try again, smarter.
What's your next mistake?
For me, in 2024 I’m taking lessons to learn te reo Māori, and starting work on my second book, which involves lots of research, writing, and editing. I know that I will make many, many mistakes along the way – but they’ll be in service of making things better, and making better things.
I’d love to hear what you’re working on, and the next mistake you’re planning to make! Drop me an email, comment below, or connect with me over on LinkedIn.
* A Genius strength is something you are great at, that lights you up when you use it. You might work hard when using it, but it doesn’t feel like hard work