“To err is human…” but is it necessary? Believe it or not, it’s widely believed that not making mistakes could be the worst mistake you ever make.
George Bernard Shaw said, “A life spent making mistakes is better than a life spent doing nothing.” And this is largely true. Without mistakes, we don’t know the things we like doing and we don’t learn how to improve. If most inventions and methods are improved through trial and error – not erring would mean rarely improving.
Here are 10 reasons why not making mistakes could be the biggest mistake in life:
1. Making mistakes teach us valuable lessons.
Vincent Van Gogh said, “Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes.Only when I fall do I get up again.”
Making mistakes whether in relationships, work life, school or other endeavors is the key to figuring out the things we want to do and how we want to act. Only when we fail at these things can we see where we went wrong and take action to correct them. Did you hover over your girlfriend and act jealously until she felt smothered? Now you know that giving a loved one space is part of a healthy — and longer lasting — relationship.
2. Mistakes teach us to be forgiving.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” – Mark Twain
Recognizing your own mistakes makes it easier to understand others’ mistakes when they happen — especially if they have directly affected you. Did you lend someone your car, only to have them crash it? Have you ever crashed a car? Or broken something that belonged to someone else? You will likely be more apt to forgive the offender knowing from where they came.
3. Mistakes help us let go of our fears.
“You can only go forward by making mistakes,” Alexander McQueen
Some people are afraid to make mistakes. Or they are afraid to try things at which they won’t be good. How can you get good at something without trying — and failing — at it first? When I first started mushing dogs, I was not good at it. My dogs tangled up. I fell off the sled at every turn. Frankly, I was a bruised up mess for a while. In fact, I was often a little afraid to go out on the sled, knowing what large tree or sharp turn I might encounter. But I kept getting back on the sled and learned to adjust my riding accordingly — becoming more athletic in the meantime. If I had let my constant mistakes and fear get the better of me, I might not be training for the Iditarod now.
4. Making mistakes is essential to living a life without regrets.
“A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery.” – James Joyce
How can you discover the things you like and don’t like unless you make mistakes? Maybe you think you want to be a chef so you get a job in a restaurant and they are the worst days you have ever spent. Perhaps you feel like you’ve wasted your time and it was a huge mistake to take on that job. But how would you know unless you tried it? At the end of your life, do you want to look back and see that you only made the “right” choices or wonder what might have been? If you hadn’t tried working in that restaurant you might have gone your whole life thinking you could have been a great chef — and never known how much you actually would have hated it. Mistakes mean a life without regrets.
5. Mistakes help you grow as a person.
“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde
And boy do I have a lot of experience at this point! I’ve made lots of mistakes but it gives me a lot of perspective as well. If I hadn’t taken those turns or gone down those paths — even when they quickly became obvious they were the wrong ones — I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I also would not appreciate my life as much as I do. If everything had come easily, the things I’ve been able to achieve wouldn’t mean as much. I can also be a more accepting and forgiving person overall, knowing how much I’ve screwed up in my own life at times.
6. Mistakes can be fun.
“There are some people who live 70 years, and there some people who live one year 70 times, repeating what they’re doing over and over in the name of the gold watch or whatever.” – Wayne Dyer
OK, maybe it’s not the right kind of fun. And maybe we shouldn’t have done that thing we did. But at least at the end of your years, you won’t have lived the same exact year every year. Mix it up. Try new things. Spending each day in the same way getting the same undesirable result is not only boring, it’s a mistake in and of itself.
7. Mistakes lead to success.
“Fall down seven times, get up eight.” – Chinese Proverb
Most people who are an “overnight success” took years to get where they are. Do you have a goal in mind? A business you want to pursue or a race you want to win? Go look up those people in your field that you admire and find out how long and hard they worked to get where they are. While you don’t have to emulate their struggles, simply recognizing that they didn’t get where they are right away is a huge step in your own success. Everyone takes odd paths and has hard times. The more mistakes you make, the faster you will realize how much you want to do that thing you want to do — and whether or not it’s worth it.
8. Mistakes inspire us.
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”. – Edmund Burke
Did you break it? Do it wrong? Make it the wrong way? Screw it up? Whatever “it” is, it’s likely that if you broke it, you’ll have to fix it. Or if you did it wrong, you’ll have to do it again. The more often you have to try something or do something new, the more inspired you get to fix it and do it right. Keep working at it. Take a break and then do it again. Let your mistakes fire you up for success.
9. Mistakes serve as a warning.
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
Sometimes mistakes don’t signal a route to success, instead they serve as a warning we should heed. Did you drive a car under the influence and almost hit a person? Did you go to a party and almost lose your job for not making it into work on time the next day? Different mistakes can mean different things and mistakes where we put our selfish desires before our responsibilities can mean trouble — but they can also serve as a warning. Heed those warnings and try to avoid making them again, so you can move forward and succeed in your journey.
10. Mistakes allow us to see how we are like others.
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – John Powell
Let’s be honest, we all think we’re pretty special. Anything we do, any mistake we make, we often feel like we are the only one to experience it in the way we do. Unfortunately, that’s entirely untrue. With 7 billion people on the planet, the likelihood that we are the first to make a certain mistake — or the first to feel a certain way is really unlikely. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not special. And neither am I. But that’s OK. We are special to certain people in our lives and we can still enjoy those moments that are special to us. The greatest advantage to making mistakes is learning that we are just like other people. This gives us more empathy for others — no matter how different from us they are — and the understanding that no matter what we’ve done wrong, someone else has likely done it before.
Featured photo credit: Teenage girl depression – lost love – isolated on white background via shutterstock.com
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