We all come to these moments in life when we don’t know what to do next because we simply have no idea what the next step is; we simply have not been there before, and we block, we freeze. I consider this place a ‘turning point’ where we have the opportunity to choose to learn by doing… or not. It can feel like a frightening and scary place because this is as far as our experience and comfort zone expand. But for learning to take place, we have to accept these feelings, go into the unknown, and be unafraid to make mistakes.
What are mistakes? When do we start making mistakes?
A mistake is a coin with two faces. The classical definitions of the word, as well as our society, mostly look at only one of its faces – the face that shows someone is to blame for their errors. And that perspective might be useful considering that the ‘mistakes’ one made were intentional. On the other hand, if one had no intention for his error, is he or she to blame?
When we have reached the edges of our conscious experience and are willing to dive into the unknown with a conscious openness and understanding that we simply do not know what will be there for us, we open ourselves to life’s infinite possibilities. In other words, we are opening ourselves to learning. And learning can occur in many forms. One of the most common is by making mistakes, or ‘trial-and-error’ you may call it. This is how children learn to navigate this world – by making mistakes.
Are mistakes bad? What does it mean to learn from your mistakes?
Whether one’s mistakes are bad or not depends on the perspective we look at them. For example, if person one makes a mistake that affects person two, person two might feel unpleasant about it and label it as ‘bad’. But if person one has the ability to recognize his error and learn from it, then he will see it as a constructive mistake and will be unlikely to repeat that mistake in future. Furthermore, if person two, as well, is able to see the mistake made by person one as an attempt to learn, then this lesson would be cemented in compassion.
How can we learn from our mistakes?
It is not easy to learn from our mistakes when we do not see them for what they are – as attempts to expand our conscious experience. But we have generally learned to avoid making them and feel ashamed, afraid or guilty because mistakes are bad and are generally frowned upon. We have learned this from our parents, relatives, school, work, etc., that whenever we make a mistake, we are punished for it in one way or another. Therefore we have to hide it and/or try to correct it as soon as possible, before someone notices.
For learning to occur, first, we need to become comfortable experiencing the unpleasant feelings mistakes may bring, and second, we need to take a step back from identifying with the context and search for the lesson life is teaching us. The more we train ourselves to see mistakes as lessons, the more freely and easily we can navigate life and expand our consciousness. Of course, this is not an invitation to start hurting people, but an invitation for self-exploration.
Learning by doing is a play that brings so much relevant and up-to-date information to us. It is important not to take our mistakes personally, but to take responsibility for them.
So, go there, do what you feel scared to do (because you yearn to accomplish it). And remember, it is not so important to get it right… at least not the first time. Instead, it is important to just do it and to learn from every mistake you make how to do it better. Because every mistake is an opportunity to learn.