"It's wonderful to have a psychologist such as Dr. Crawford on contract through Harris County's Risk Management program. I've attended several of his seminars and hold him in the highest regard. In addition, his weekly "Quotes and Comments" are consistently excellent, and, in my opinion, the BEST! Powerful, enlightening, and even liberating. Many thanks to Dr. Bill!"
Quotes and Wisdom
"A mistake is just a "take" or an action that we took, that missed."
In my opinion, there are several problems with this way of thinking. First, we are mistake-making creatures. It is not only part of our nature, it's a requirement, and even part of our job description for being on the planet. Unless we plan to ascend any time soon, we will make mistakes; it's part of who we are. To define this inevitable aspect of our nature (making mistakes) as our "failures" dooms us to see ourselves as failures for as long as we are alive.
Second, when we focus on the pain of the mistake in order to avoid similar mistakes in the future, what we are really doing is holding on to an image of what we don't want. In my keynotes and workshops, I often illustrate this by describing the experience of children spilling their milk or making some similar mistake at the dinner table. Often, the parents will make a huge issue out of this and tell them over and over how bad this is, and how they should never spill the milk again. Of course, all the kids hear is how he or she is bad for making a mess, and so they become very focused on "not spilling their milk, which will of course only increase the likelihood that milk will be spilled. Again, seeing "avoiding of mistakes" as our prime directive actually has us holding on to images of what we don't want.
Third, if we try to live (and/or avoid failure) by fearing making mistakes, we will be using fear as a guide in our lives and we will never take any risks. This perspective will severely hamper our creativity, willingness to try new things, and general ability to deal with any sort of change. Given that the qualities every industry today is looking for in their employees are creativity and the ability to deal with change, this could severely hamper an individual's success. In fact, if we were to look at most successful people today, we would probably not find individuals who are afraid to make mistakes.
Fourth and maybe most importantly, when we hold on to the pain of the mistake as our way of avoiding the mistake in the future, what we could miss is the learning or valuable information we received from taking some action that didn't accomplish the intended goal. The truth is that there is learning to be gleaned from every action, whether it was successful or not. Not only can these "unsuccessful" efforts produce valuable byproducts (such as Teflon and post-it notes -- both created as results of mistakes) but often, they provide us with invaluable information about what works and what doesn't.
Instead, we could ask ourselves the question, "Okay, knowing what I know now, how would I do it differently?" In fact, one way of viewing this concept is to see mistakes as actions we took or "takes" that missed! They become "mis/takes"! In the movies when someone makes a "mis/take," what do they do? They laugh about it, learn from it, and take it again using what the last mis/take has taught them. This perspective allows directors to "take" a scene countless number of times until they succeed.
Now, I recognize that some of our mistakes have much more serious consequences than a mis/take on a movie set, however, can you also see that if we focus on the pain of the mistake and the fear of making another, we become shackled to "what we are afraid of," "what we don't want," and "what doesn't work?"
Did you know that the word "sin" was originally an archery term? It meant to "miss the mark." Wouldn't a better alternative be to focus not on "counting the number of times that we fall down, but the lightness with which we pick ourselves back up" as Steven Levine suggests, and apply what we have learned to creating a new solution, versus just avoiding the problem? If so, we could refocus our "aim" and have a much better chance of "being on target" with our next attempt. Sort of gives new meaning to the concept of "target practice" as a way of life, don't you think?