When was the last time you made a mistake?
I’m not talking about accidentally putting salt in your coffee instead of sugar. Or sending a screenshot of a conversation back to the same person.
I’m talking about the big kind of mistakes. The one where you took a leap, caught your back foot on the edge of a rock, and stumbled down, almost spraining your wrist.
Do you have to think about that for a second? Can you even remember the last time?
Now, what if I asked you another question: When was the last time you avoided making a mistake?
I’m sure you could write a freakin’ Christmas list of instances.
I understand why people want to avoid mistakes; they invoke fear, which is as paralyzing as tranquilizers for some.
It’s the same reason many people will live life in their comfort zones. Continually doing the same routine, day in and day out. Simply wondering what life would’ve been like if they had started that company or moved to a different country. But accepting those ideas are merely fantasies.
To put into a simple equation:
Preparation = comfort, certainty, consequence minimization.
Mistakes = discomfort, loss, scary, trudging up buried emotions people so desperately try to push down.
But what if I told you that’s not the case; that actually, mistakes = growth?
See, somewhere along the way, people got it in their heads that mistake minimization is the safest way to live life. The people that never pursue lofty ideas — the ones mentioned above — are going to be better off in the long run.
That couldn’t be more wrong, though. By avoiding mistakes, you’re actually doing yourself a huge disservice.
It’s impossible to learn and grow from a static position. Through time and going out and experiencing new things, you learn and grow. But doing so comes with inevitable mistakes.
You meet someone at a bar and think they’re your type. You date for months and realize they’re actually self-absorbed, and you lack the same goals. You break it off and continue dating, knowing qualities in a partner you want to avoid.
Maybe you leave college thinking you want to get into law. Before unloading an absurd amount of money into law school, you take on an internship at a law firm. You see, the endless amount of paperwork and reading case studies that are required and decide law isn’t for you. At that point, you pivot and get into a new career.
You can see these scenarios as either failures or learning experiences. Either way, the truth is, mistakes are the latter.
Steve Jobs took being fired from Apple to reassess his projects; he then launched Pixar. James Dyson went through 5,126 prototypes before finally creating the vacuum that launched the brand. Microsoft was actually Bill Gate’s second company, the first of which failed and taught him lessons he later learned to become the success he is.
There’s no doubt: the most significant growth you’ll ever experience is going to come from your failures.
Here’s why mistakes create growth.
Mistakes Help You Learn
There won’t always be someone guiding your hand down a new path. A book won’t always be available, telling you precisely what to do. Sometimes, you have to just start.
You can learn so much by just doing and realizing what doesn’t work. This process might feel like a failure, but in reality, it’s a valuable knowledge gain.
Mistakes Unlock Your Creativity
When you realize one way didn’t work out, you need to think of a new way to do things.
That’s when creativity comes in. To solve a problem in a way you haven’t tried, you need to think outside of the box. Not enough people employ their creativity even though it’s a beautiful part of being human.
Mistakes Build Courage
The first mistake will probably feel crappy. But the second mistake will feel a bit less so.
Soon enough, you’re going to build resilience. You’ll get out there and try things because you’ve already experienced mistakes; fear doesn’t keep you stagnant. Courage is about admitting you failed but learning and moving forward anyway.
Mistakes Build Confidence
By learning that mistakes won’t completely destroy you, you’re more confident to move through life.
Sure, failures will happen, but having been through them, they don’t deter you like they do others. Your confidence isn’t built on mistake minimization; instead, your ability and willingness to overcome obstacles and grow.
Mistakes are a Reminder Life isn’t a Straight Path
You can’t possibly know where life will take you. There’s no absolute path to walk down. It’s all about experimenting, trying new things, and seeing what happens when you walk down that little dirt path to the left.
For some people, this thought is scary. But when you see mistakes and failure in a different mindset, it’s actually pretty exciting.
Living life in a risk-averse way will perhaps keep you from making mistakes. But if you’re losing out on is exceptional, life-altering growth, is it really worth it?
Mistakes are the greatest learning tool you have in life; your experiences shape you into who you are. You’re not meant to minimize your mistakes; rather, use them to become even more of who you’re meant to be.