Celebrating the Freedom to Make Mistakes

It might seem like an unusual title for a blog but you have to admit that it certainly feels good to be proved right, doesn’t it? Nobody takes pleasure from being wrong. Rather, we all enjoy an unmistakable frisson of satisfaction when we acknowledge, usually with a tingle of pride, that we were correct. Especially when that leads us to conclude that everyone else must have been wrong. Does any of that that sound vaguely familiar to you?

Admitting Error clears the Score, And proves you Wiser than before. – Arthur Guiterman

However, there are several problems that arise from our obsession with always needing to be right. One problem in particular – and one that we tend to overlook – is that it prevents us from acknowledging when we’re wrong. And let’s face it – mistakes, though often uncomfortable, are an inescapable part of life. In fact, errors and mistakes are an essential part of any learning process. It’s the mistakes and errors that help us to grow.

When you think about the limitations imposed by always striving to be right, it’s obviously going to be very difficult for any of us to appreciate the vital lessons that arise from making mistakes and acknowledging our failings and errors of judgement.

In terms of aiming for any form of success, the pathway to our goals demands action, uncertainties, errors, failure and the courage to carry on after any setback. We have to be willing to take risks and expose our plans to the possibility of failure. But that’s how we learn. That’s how we sharpen our skills. That’s how we develop the courage to get up after a setback, to fight on and keep going in order to fulfil our ambitions.

The more extreme form of this phenomenon is when we avoid taking risks or making decisions for fear of failure or from the deep-seated dread of getting something wrong.

When we develop an unconscious fear about making mistakes or failing in our quest to be right, we’ll use our creativity to justify sitting on the fence and thus avoid taking the appropriate actions that will bring us closer to our goals. This leads to a form of paralysis. Some analysts describe this phenomenon as a disabling form of perfectionism. It doesn’t demand the best possible outcome. It seeks to avoid any situation where failure could occur.

 Not admitting a mistake is a much bigger mistake. – Robert Half

The other weakness in the obsession with always being right is that it so often makes other people wrong. Have you noticed that? Have you ever thought how your insistence on being right inevitably makes someone else wrong? How damaging do you feel that could be to your relationships?

Whenever we insist with dogged determination that we must be right, we close off our minds to other viewpoints and to other people’s opinions. We eliminate an essential aspect of our unique ability to communicate with other members of our species. We close our eyes to the experience that others may bring to our projects and plans. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with something that doesn’t make sense to you. But at least you will be open to alternatives, suggestions, insights, guidance and potential support for your precious plans.

It’s incredibly helpful within the sphere of human dynamics to acknowledge that others can subscribe to a radically different opinion to your own without you having to dismiss their beliefs without even considering their perspective. It’s a question of respect. The key is to reserve judgement until you’ve assessed the data. That means avoiding those familiar knee-jerk reactions that are so dismissive of other people’s insights without taking a few moments to consider what’s being said.

And the problem can cut both ways because it’s equally possible that you’ll come across people who simply ignore or dismiss your advice without a second thought. They might close their ears to your words of wisdom. To be fair, some of those people may well be justified in choosing not to follow your suggestions. They may well identify flaws in your perception. Breaking free from the habit of imposing judgements of right and wrong on other people’s behaviours, perceptions and viewpoints opens up the possibility of better communication. It can also help to create a more caring and considerate world. These are the hallmarks of a healthy society.

We’re often afraid of looking at our shadow because we want to avoid the shame or embarrassment that comes with admitting our mistakes. – Marianne Williamson

When you grant yourself the freedom of being wrong and making mistakes, you’ll lift a huge burden from your shoulders. There’s something quite liberating about being free to acknowledge your failings. It creates unexpected openings for unexpected growth, learning, insights and progress. You step out of the cramped roles you’re been playing and find yourself free to engage with life on a more realistic and rewarding level. You’ll feel free. You’ll be ready to take the failures and mistakes in your stride. Because they’re the unavoidable milestones along the pathway to success and personal fulfilment.

Admitting failure is quite cleansing, but never, ever pleasurable! – Michael Morpurgo

So, let’s accept that it’s absolutely fine to be wrong. It takes a wonderful kind of self-confidence and maturity to embrace the discomfort of failure. But once you’ve conquered that particular form of fear, you’ll discover extraordinary new ways to express yourself and your talents.

I hate admitting that my enemies have a point! – Salman Rushdie