Why can’t I get this right? Why do I keep doing this wrong? You mean you aren’t perfect? 100% of us make mistakes daily. I recommend you get comfortable with making them. Otherwise you will continue to feel like a failure and you are NOT!
Making mistakes is important for growth. It’s critical to get comfortable with making them.
Does ‘perfect’ even exist?
Perfection – no mistakes, no messing up, no flaws. Only plain old…what? Perfect? What does perfect look like? The truth is there is no such thing as perfect. Think about the people in your life. As you walk down the street look at the trees and flowers. Are any of them ‘perfect’? Nope!
Perfection is something esoteric out there in the universe that you can’t see, touch or reach. Perfection should not be part of what you are striving for.
Aim for progress, not perfection
There is always another opportunity for change, growth and learning which means it was not ‘perfect’ even when you thought something was perfect. At any given moment wherever you are, that’s where you are at. Tomorrow you might be in a different place, and that’s as good as you get.
As an example, if you are a 17-year-old tennis player who is working on your serve, by the end of the today you will be as good as your practice but you won’t have a serve like Maria Sharapova. If you work hard everyday on your serve, one day you might be that good but not today.
Striving for perfection can actually hold you back
Everyday your brain transmits signals that you need to be perfect. When you don’t reach perfection, and you feel like you’ve failed. You keep grasping for it because you see glimpses of its existence, but you can’t ever get there.
Making mistakes fuels the fire. Not only do you realize that you are not perfect, but now you are way less than perfect because you are making mistakes. You think that two bad things are happening to you, and you have no control over either of them. When mistakes happen you get frustrated and angry which leads to making more mistakes. The cycle continues.
Why mistakes are important
Remember, 100% of us make mistakes. You have two options: continue striving for perfection and continue to fail or understand how important mistakes are to your continued growth and embrace them.
During practice, mistakes provide feedback to the part of your brain that controls motor coordination; how you hit your shots. When you’re learning a new shot or fine-tuning an old shot, the brain needs a wealth of information to figure out what constitutes success. For example, how do you figure out the proper angle at which to hold your racquet face during a cross court volley?
But during competition, when you hit a shot and miss, your brain tries to understand what went wrong and make immediate corrections. With so many variables to consider, your brain may not be able to make sense of it all after the first, second or even tenth attempt. Fortunately, every time you make a mistake, your brain factors in new information, processes it and sends new signals to your muscles.
Your brain needs you to make mistakes so that you can learn and improve. Mistakes give you important information. Knowledge is power. Caveat: you can’t fix mistakes in competition. You can only fix mistakes in practice.
Here are four tips for how to let go of perfection and embrace making mistakes:
- Watch for other people making mistakes – how do they deal with it? How do you feel about them making a mistake?
- Redefine perfect – if you aren’t making mistakes on a daily basis, you are failing anyway.
- Recognize that in order to get better or be great it takes time (10,000 hours principle).
- If you were quarantined by yourself, making mistakes, would you feel so badly about them? Focus on what you are doing and not what you think others are thinking about what you are doing.
100% of us are imperfect. 100% of us make mistakes. Making the mistake is not the problem. How you deal with it is. You can’t change or do it over. It’s done. Learn to change how you think about and deal with mistakes.