“Really screwed that up,” said my student as he rubbed his jaw. “I hate it when I make mistakes,” he continued. I said, “yeah, don’t we all. Do it again,” I said. His partner attacked and he angled perfectly and avoided getting hit. “That’s it,” I exclaimed, “perfect.” “Now, let me ask you a question. Why do you think you did that so perfectly this time?” “Well, I didn’t want to get hit again,” he said, in an ‘obviously’ tone of voice. “Right,” I said, “that’s what I thought. So we could say that the last mistake you made really motivated you to get it right.” “Absolutely,” he replied.
“Good, that’s a really important lesson you just experienced,” I told him. “Yeah, I guess so, I hate getting hit,” he said. “I think you’re missing the point,” I replied. “I’m talking about the nature of mistakes.”
I went on to explain that it is important for us to process mistakes in a productive way. Far too often we see a mistake as a sign of stupidity, inability, or absolute failure. Often we are tempted, or shamed (usually by our own minds) into giving up on our intentions and goals. We must learn to overcome this negative programming. It takes practice. It is one of the most important tools in our perseverance toolbox. Here is a quick model to work with.
The next time you experience what you believe is a mistake:
First describe as objectively as possible, without emotion, what happened in as much detail as possible. The answer is always in the details.
Next do your best to identify exactly what you learned from this experience. This often has two parts; what not to do again, and either exactly what to do next time to succeed or a least a good idea of what to try.
Then run the experiment again making sure you are applying what you have learned.
In this way you can train yourself to view mistakes as teachers rather than letting them take the role of undertaker, all to willing to burry your dreams and goals.
So the next time your ego mind wants to beat you up for not getting something right let your winner’s mind smile at the other and thank it for the valuable lesson.