Mistaking Mistakes

I started my day off with a mistake. I went to a meeting across town from my school only to find out the meeting had been changed so there was no meeting. Did you follow that?

This feels typical for me. I never feel like I have everything under control: losing my keys, misplacing paperwork, getting lost, lessons that don’t work in class. And each and every time I feel like I’ve failed.

But is this the right approach?

I don’t think so.

I was taught from a young age that mistakes are bad. Mistakes are to be dreaded and avoided and hidden. I would hyperventilate as a child when I didn’t know the answer on a test, and I would avoid doing new things at times because I didn’t know how to do it. But I’ve been looking at this all wrong.

Mistakes are a part of life. They lead to growth and change and new ideas. I’m not saying I’m going to run around and be irresponsible, but I need to stop punishing myself for every mistake. Because sometimes I’m so afraid of making a mistake that I get paralyzed.

I recently read an article about Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, who said that her father would ask her brother and her to tell him what they had failed at that day or that week. They learned to celebrate the effort rather than the results and would talk about what they had gotten out of the experience. It taught her how to fail which is something some of us never learn.

I’ve been slowly doing this. Dipping my toe in with new experiences, moving to another country, but not committing to it with things that truly matter to me.

Along these lines, I have decided to post a blog a day for the next 40 days, putting my writing and my thoughts out there no matter how imperfect they may be. I’m hoping that by writing every day, my writing will improve, my ideas will improve, but, more than anything, that my fear will abate: fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, fear of making a mistake.

The mistake this morning led to a few hours walking in the sun on a beautiful day instead of sitting in my cold, windowless office.

And tomorrow’s mistake may lead to me making a new friend or creating a brilliant lesson plan. Or it may lead to my getting yelled at or getting charged a late fee or hurting someone’s feelings. But I won’t know unless I try.

And I won’t get better or learn anything new without making a few mistakes along the way.

So – what did you fail at today?


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