Mistakes — calamities or teachable moments

June_bwThere seems to be a great deal of energy and anxiety around the issue of “mistakes.” I have noticed that we often judge ourselves and others quite severely when mistakes are made. What piqued my interest in this was how someone’s mood or state of mind could plummet so dramatically with what seemed like a simple accident, a slight error in judgment.

So, what can we make of this hypersensitivity to making a “mis-take”?

It’s possible to trace the origins of such a reaction to our childhood, to connect it with teasing from siblings or classmates. But why have we hung onto the feelings of embarrassment and upset when we make the most innocent error or have the most unintentional accident? Why do we think we shouldn’t make mistakes?

There are two simple habits that we’ve developed that keep us from experiencing true well-being.

The first is our continued response to events as if they were outside-in occurrences. As long as we imagine that life is happening “to us” we will feel at the mercy of outside events and at the whim of fate. When we realize fully that we have choice in every moment, we are then free to respond with wisdom and deep compassion.

The second habit is one of personal thinking. This goes hand in hand with the misconception that life is outside-in. If we respond to life’s events as if they are happening “to us” we’re more likely to take them personally. For example, if someone speaks harshly to us or seems critical of something we’ve done, we may revert to a familiar habit of feeling hurt or upset (personal thinking).

When we’re able to see the possibilities available to us in each event and in each moment we can then recognize how our insecure and personal thinking is not the preferred choice. It lowers our mood and detracts from our connection with another. It’s simply a mistake.

When we’re able to genuinely embrace the truth of an inside-out experience and the reality of choices that serve us better, we can then live in a sense of well-being. We’re freed from the cloud of judgment and reactivity. And we can then see our mistakes, and those of others, as opportunities to try again, to learn, to lighten up.

We’re familiar with the movie industry’s “take one” and “take two.” Why not give ourselves and others the same latitude? We all make mistakes. It’s a crucial part of our learning curve.

Let’s begin the New Year committed to a new perspective; maybe even feel a little grateful for those mistakes. They are our best teachers. Happy New Year to all.

About June Earle

June graduated from Antioch University with a Masters in Counselling Psychology. She is a graduate of U of T in Physical & Occupational Therapy and has a B.Sc in Rehabilitation from UBC.