Give Yourself Permission To Make Mistakes – “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”
When I was a grade school child, I lived in fear of mistakes. This ended some time around Jr. High School, but up until then I remember having butterflies in my stomach any time there was a test or when I had to read out loud. Not only was it fear of a mistake, it was fear of embarrassment, which I suspect is what people truly fear when they make a mistake. Nobody likes that flushed-face feeling or feeling like everyone in the room is staring at them. Embarrassment is a powerful emotion, and I think Ben Franklin might agree with me on this expansion of his original idea.
As I navigated the awkward years of high school (and college too), part of growing up was realizing that mistakes happen and people appreciate honesty about mistakes. I’ve rarely run into an unreasonable person that isn’t willing to sympathize with someone who says, “Hey, I messed up. I’ll fix the mistake.” Benjamin Franklin messed up a bunch, made mistakes and had bad days just like the rest of us. Heck, he brought an invasive ornamental tree to the United States as a gift. We’re still trying to get rid of it, apparently. I wonder if he’s still tell us that particular tree is useful?
In my adult life, I’ve messed up plenty of times. I’ll make more mistakes until the day I die. Ben’s advice is truly freeing, “Do not fear mistakes.” I find that I learn more from mistakes, than from successes, especially first-try successes. Mistakes are an opportunity to improve. Mistakes are not the end, they simply signal a new beginning. Mistakes views as a tool, instead of an event, ultimately release any feeling of embarrassment. Goodbye fear, goodbye flushed-faces.
The last part of Ben’s advice is the toughest to follow for someone like me. It’s easy to admit a mistake. It’s easy to learn from it. It is doable to not feel too embarrassed about the mistake. It’s very hard to reach out again to the same person or parties after making a mistake that might have hurt them. Maybe to remove the uneasiness of reaching out, I’ll view it as the first step of a new beginning? Baseball’s Opening Day is my favorite day of the year, because all of the previous mistakes of the previous year are wiped clean. Maybe we should all just have more personal Opening Days?