Elements Consulting

Facilitating Pathways to Success

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Renewal Leadership: We Can Learn from Our Mistakes

Posted by elementsconsulting on May 5, 2016 at 11:30 AM

April 28, 2016

We Can Learn from Our Mistakes

 

As humans we make mistakes every day, big and tiny ones. But for many of us we still do not see failure and mistakes as an awesome learning opportunity. I still struggle to embrace the stumbles and tumbles. This is a challenge for many of us and it requires us to live and act in ways to prevent mistakes which then results in us not taking risks, expanding our comfort zones or jumping outside the boxes we find ourselves living within. However if we look at mistakes and failures as guideposts in our learning and growth we can live more boldly and allow ourselves to take those bigger risks that create more effective leaders.

 

Embrace screw ups, failures and mistakes as they can teach us powerful lessons as noted below.

 

1. Mistakes teach us to accept ourselves and that we can be flawed and be loved. We can fully appreciate ourselves, even while acknowledging our screw ups. It is possible to laugh at our mistakes and then work hard to correct them. People who love and care about us will stick with us through all our flaws and floundering. Our not so perfectness is what makes us unique and we are loved for it.

 

2. Mistakes teach us to clarify what we really want and how we want to live. Noticing and admitting our mistakes helps us get in touch with our commitments—what we really want to be, do, and have. Mistakes wake us up and focus our attention. Working on possible solutions, redefining what we want or expect, or reexamining our values or goals can lead us to more clarity about our path.

 

3. Mistakes teach us about ourselves and how to tell our truth. It is natural to want to cover up our mistakes or be embarrassed by them. But being honest about our failures and limitations offer us opportunities to practice telling the truth. Admitting the truth allows us to expand our knowledge of self-to know who we are and increases our capacity to change.

 

4. Mistakes teach us to accept our fallibility and face our fear. Sometimes even our best efforts just don’t work out. We might do everything possible to achieve a certain result and still fail, again and again. When we are stuck and admit that we can’t do it alone it sends a signal and opens the door for help to show up. People, resources, and solutions will appear, especially when we ask for help.

 

5. Mistakes teach us, through analysis and feedback, about what works, and what doesn’t. It’s a reality check. When we experience the consequences of mistakes, we get a clear message about which of our efforts are working—and which are not. The feedback we get from our mistakes can be the most specific, pointed, and powerful feedback we’ll ever get. Many times we can trace mistakes to recurring patterns of belief or behavior—things we do, say, and think over and over again.

 

6. Mistakes teach us to take responsibility. Sometimes our instinctive reaction to a mistake is to shift blame elsewhere. It is more empowering to look for our role in the mistake. Taking responsibility for a failure may not be fun. But the act of doing so points out what we can do differently next time. Investigating our role reminds us that our choices and our actions have a huge influence on the quality of our lives.

 

7. Mistakes teach us about integrity. Mistakes often happen when we break promises, over-commit, agree to avoid conflict or fail to listen fully. Big mistakes often start as small errors. Over time, tiny choices that run counter to our values or goals can accumulate into breakdowns. Mistakes can be a signal that our words and our actions are out of alignment. In that case, we can re-examine our intentions, reconsider our commitments, and adjust our actions.

 

8. Mistakes allow us to inspire others. They may be inspired when we are courageous and make our private struggles public. They might decide to live differently. As parents we can teach our children that it is OK to fail because we are willing to let them see our failures and mistakes. This gives us opportunities to talk through what we could or would have done differently. These are powerful lessons for those around us.

 

Finally, one way to gain maximum benefit from mistakes is to examine them through the filter of powerful questions: “How can I use this experience?”; “What will I do differently next time?”; “How will I be different in the future?” Questions like these lead to an inquiry that invites solutions.


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