Mistakes are Required, Being a Failure is Optional


By David Joel Miller.

You are required to make mistakes.

Success and Failure

Success and Failure.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are you one of those people who are mistake aversive? You would do anything to avoid making a mistake?

hen you make a mistake do you feel awful and tell yourself you “shouldn’t” have done that?

When you make a mistake do you feel wrong, awful, even sinful?

Stop abusing yourself!

You need to make mistakes. The requirement to make mistakes is in your DNA. There are at least two reasons why mistakes are a human requirement.

1. You learn better from painful mistakes than from pleasant successes

Frankly most of us do not learn from our accomplishments. We learn best from our failures. Here is an example.

Let’s say you like ice cream Sundays. Every week this year you stop after dinner at a favorite ice cream place and treat yourself to a Sunday. Then at the end of the year you tell me about this tradition you have established. Quick, which one was the best? The worst? Was the one on the third week in February better or worse than the one you ate the second week in August?

Most likely you can’t remember. Pleasure and successes that are mostly pleasurable, are not stored in our brains in a whole lot of detail, it takes time for pleasure to “soak into” the brain. One article I read reported that it takes 30 seconds to a minute of concerted effort, thinking about that pleasant event to store the memory away in your brain.

Pain is easily stored in the brain.

Now if you drive a particular stretch of road home every day and one day you are in a terrible car wreck, you see someone killed, will you remember that? Sure you will. That painful event and mistakes are often painful, are stored deeply in our brains. Thoughts, even thoughts about things that have not happened, are events. Even if these thoughts only happen in our heads, those negative thought-events cause a lot of pain.

As a result of this experience you may change your route, avoid that road all together or change your driving practices. You will have learned something about the dangers of driving. Remembering this event, dreaming about it and talking about it may increase that storage of memory. You may even over store the event and become afraid to ride in a car.

The principle here is that we learn far more from our mistakes than from our success. If you want to learn, become knowledgeable or even wise, you will have to make mistakes.

2. Mistakes are a source of creativity.

Most creativity comes from people doing things in new ways. They violate tradition. They do something in a manner other than the “correct” way to do things. Let me illustrate.

Say we work in the same place. Every day we pass in the hall. I say good morning, you say good morning and we go on our ways. Life is good, Life is predictable.

One day I say good morning, you say “How are you doing?”

This is terrible, the world is in chaos. You are not supposed to say “How are you doing?” This is a mistake!

Doing something new, that mistake in the pattern of following tradition, results in creativity. Now that you have altered the universe by making this mistake, we just may need to stop and have a conversation. Our relationships have been altered.

Getting out of the routine, trying out new ways of doing and behaving is creativity. Sometimes these efforts work and sometimes they do not. It is our willingness to take a chance, risk making a mistake, that results in us trying new things and being creative.

In the title to this post I used the term “being a failure.” There is a vast difference between failing at something and being a failure. Making a mistake and being a mistake are not the same thing.

Everyone who tries makes mistakes. The only way to avoid mistakes is to never attempt anything and that would be a mistake.

Every player in major league baseball has struck out. Every NBA player has missed a shot. This failure or mistake has not made them any less.

Make all the mistakes you can. Fail early and often. Just please, learn from these experiences, do not keep repeating the same mistakes. Make new ones. That way you will keep trying and some of the things you do will work.

You may make some mistakes, fail sometimes, but if you keep trying you will never be a failure.

Sometimes we become so afraid of failure that our fear prevents us being successful. Coming up soon a post on how that fear of failure may be preventing your successes.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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4 thoughts on “Mistakes are Required, Being a Failure is Optional

  1. Pingback: 6 Ways Fear of Failure prevents success | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: How to fail –Getting F’s may be harder than you think | counselorssoapbox

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