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Why You Shouldn't be Afraid of Making Mistakes

It's commonly said by professionals in learning and self-improvement that you learn far more from your failures than from your successes. This isn't just a piece of fluff designed to make you feel less wretched when things go wrong; it's simply common sense. Making mistakes is a crucial part of the learning process, and being able to learn from your mistakes is an essential skill if you want to succeed and be happy in life. No-one can go through their life without making a few mistakes, so instead of feeling disappointed with yourself, try and view the experience as part of a learning curve that you will be better off for in the end.

If you don't get it wrong, you're not trying hard enough

This theory is perhaps best demonstrated when people play sport. Footballers aren't born with the ability to place a free kick in the corner of the net or dribble the ball through four defenders before scoring. It takes a degree of talent to be that good, but talent is nothing without practice. They will have spent hours every day repeating the same moves over and over again, and getting them wrong more often than not. But with each missed shot and every time the ball gets taken away from them, they learn something that helps them play better in the future. If they weren't prepared to get it wrong so often, they would never develop the skills and knowledge to get it right in the end.

Effort, not recklessness

Like most things in life, balance counts for a lot. Finding the median path between the two extremes of not trying at all and thus never making mistakes, and at the other end of the scale trying too hard, when your chances of success are slim and you risk losing more than you can gain. Between the two poles is that region where you keep trying, and keep making mistakes, but you don't become so hell-bent on achievement that you lose all sense of reason. You won't learn a lot from falling down a crevasse when you take a dangerous shortcut whilst mountain climbing - except possibly that you should have listened to the guide's advice instead of thinking you knew better, and by the time that thought has passed through your brain it will be too late to do you any good because you'll have hit the bottom.

Not learning

Demonstrating the importance of learning from your mistakes doesn't mean that if you make a hash of things on a constant basis, you will develop a genius IQ! Making the same mistakes repeatedly when you've had plenty of opportunity to get it right shows you are not learning from your mistakes at all. For instance, if you've been shown how to use the photocopier on numerous occasions and yet you still get a paper jam or print multiple copies every time you use it, then you clearly haven't taken your training on board and are likely to keep making silly, unnecessary errors. Learning shows a progression, a change from the first time you tried and an improvement with each subsequent attempt. Continually making the same mistakes won't be teaching you anything except that you need to pay more attention if you want to avoid paper jams.

Some lessons are harder to learn than others

Sometimes in life people make some really big, life-altering mistakes. They revise the wrong topic for a crucial exam; forget to get their car taxed and end up seeing the vehicle get crushed; they take the wrong dose of medication and become seriously ill; ignore the pain in their chest, not realizing they're having a coronary. Mistakes happen all the time, both tiny errors that have minimal significance and massive ones that cost people their lives. The lesson learned in these cases may not seem worth the price that has been paid, but human error is a part of life and can't be eradicated completely.

Sometimes you need to break the cycle

If you find you are making similar mistakes in similar situations on a recurring basis, you might wonder why you don't seem to have learned anything with these experiences. This can happen when a more radical change is required, that takes longer to fall into place. For example, if you have been struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, you might feel that knowing you were making a mistake should be enough to free you from your addiction. What needs to happen is for you to take a bigger step and enter a drug rehab programme that will back up your intellectual understanding with practical help and support. Sometimes knowing you're getting it wrong isn't enough to engender change, and you have to look beyond the simple paradigm of learning enough from a single mistake to ensure it never happens again.

Coping with the negative feelings you get from making mistakes

Most people hate to make mistakes or get things wrong, because they feel others will be deriding them and looking down on them. Some people may laugh or put you down behind your back when you fail, but there's no-one in the world who is immune from failure. They may be feeling smug today, but tomorrow they will spill coffee on the supervisor, or forget to order a product which then goes out of stock. So it's swings and roundabouts where mistakes are concerned; one day it will be you, the next it will be the person who called you an idiot. Developing a thick skin so you don't get hurt by other people's reactions is the best way to stop being afraid of making a mistake. It can be easier said than done, but self-help techniques and advice from experts in this field will help you.

Don't let the fear of failure hold you back, because in the long run, the realisation that you've missed out on so much of life because you didn't want to screw things up will be much harder to bear.

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