Ha! When I talk with clients about mistakes, one of the first things I say is this: I make many of them, daily! It probably depends on how you define ‘mistake’ but at any given moment, I have a choice to make and with all of those decisions there are several different directions I could go. So many times, I/we don’t know but I/we generally do the best we can. It doesn’t always turn out the way I/we want but guess what? Next time we can make an alternative decision.
Self-proclaimed type A/perfectionist
I spent most of my life as a type A/perfectionist. I thought (like many of my clients) that I needed to always be busy and doing things perfectly to gain acceptance and validation. I thought there was a ‘right’ way to do things and until I could do things that right way, I’d better not do them at all. I wasn’t open to taking risks (not even calculated risks). I waited and waited until all the pieces aligned to make things happen. Guess what? Many times, things did not happen, and I lost out because I was unable to move forward. Being a type A/perfectionist helped me feel like I had some control over my environment, but it was the wrong kind of control.
How did I move away from trying to be perfect?
The first thing that happened in my change of identity is that I let go of old notions and started embracing new ones. I realized the messages were old and they weren’t helping me get what I wanted. They were holding me back.
I redefined perfect as me doing the best I can and when I didn’t, I learned from that. I started being more flexible. I started reflecting on what was working, what wasn’t working, and what I could do differently. I embraced my mistakes as a learning opportunity. I shifted my thinking toward more neutral-positive thinking. I meditated. I slowed down. I took on less. I took on a growth mindset.
Growth mindset: life is a journey. There are no real stopping points. We get the opportunity to continue to grow and learn; to be curious. Having a growth mindset allows us to do that. In a growth mindset, we become mindful, accept, and commit to being OK with mistakes because it’s an opportunity to learn to do it differently or better. Without mistakes, there’s no opportunity for that and we become fixed and stagnant.
What have I learned?
I have learned a LOT! All the above and more (and that will never stop)! The biggest lesson I learned from making mistakes is this: I am not a terrible, awful, incompetent person because of them and my confidence does not hang in the balance based on the mistakes I make. Now that I’ve been able to put mistakes into perspective – everyone makes them, we can’t get away without making them, nor should we want to otherwise we won’t grow – I am more confident than I ever have been and even daily, as mistakes are happening, I remain 99-100% confident in what I am doing.