We start by saying “We make mistakes because….” And fall out of words once we arrive to “because”.
Whenever we think we make a mistake we either already know the irritating answer to the question above or we just can’t seem to find an assuaging reason to add after “because” that calms down our frustration.
We make mistakes. We all do. We are human and we are far from perfect. However, being a “perfectionist” is a popular trait that some people hold true of themselves. We might know we can’t be perfect but that doesn’t mean that we don’t at least try get as close as we can.
Athletes in highly competitive sports usually express perfectionism tendencies. They want to win but they also don’t want to deceive their teammates nor their fans. In sports mistakes are immediately associated with failures. A missed goal in soccer can equal to a lost match.
We know that we are supposed to make mistakes in life. However, we still keep getting angry when we make them. A study from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, was performed on a group of 138 male Canadian Football players and the research concluded that perfectionism predisposed athletes to show anger in their sport.
Athletes train to avoid mistakes but making them by missing a scoring shot is not an indication of failure but a learning opportunity. A team might lose a football match but there are numerous matches within a championship. Learning can be done.
There isn’t a more significant period in our life where we make more mistakes than in our childhood. We are kids. Our mistakes are the result of acting carelessly and engaging in activities that may cause us to fall down or get injured. It may correspond to the times we bend the rules, we try new things or even trust some people.
When we grow up we make those same mistakes
We fall down (metaphorically), we make mistakes when we take on too much on our plate and we have to back down, when we try to go our own way despite the facts that tell us not to do so or when we take risks and we follow people without really knowing where we are going.
Today we might laugh back at some of the mistakes we made when we were in our rebellious years. However, “adult” mistakes are not funny at all.
We see mistakes negatively yet they could bring immense benefits to our lives:
1. Big things can happen from making mistakes.
Babies are humorously referred as the most beautiful and wonderful mistake humans can make. However, it is not babies but trans fats in food supply that is being considered a huge mistake lately.
The FDA just announced that it would be banning trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), from America’s food supply. In 2013, the FDA started a process that is soon to affirm that PHOs are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for consumption.
The FDA is responding to the claims from experts and the results of studies, which have been linking trans fats to coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular disease complications
Was it a mistake admitting PHOs into the food supply? Probably, yes, if the FDA is banning them.
Trans fats were required in food labeling since 2006 and despite this fact they are still commonly found in a wide number of food products such as frozen food, snack foods and coffee creamers.
The FDA has also been questioned and criticized for allowing other substances such as triclosan (found in many hand soaps), which may cause environmental and human contamination or plastic bottles’ BPAs considered endocrine disruptors.
Banning trans fats may come late in time but late is better than never.
2. Mistakes are not wrong but missed takes are.
Sometimes we make mistakes because we don’t want to miss the “take”. We fear that the opportunity may run away from our hands and never come back. Other times, we let it go without fighting.
There are mistakes that fly by without us noticing. These include the times we choose not to take chances, trust more and fear less. These chances knock on our door each day and it genuinely never is too late to welcome them.
Google is powerful. It has become unstoppable in its field. It is such a complete and versatile feature to the point that it angers me. If you are aware of Apple’s iCloud feature you might be aware that Google competes with its own version called GDrive. Choose your cup of coffee.
GDrive was designed by Justin Rosenstein in 2006 but wasn’t launched until 2012. In his own words he said he lacked confidence. Larry Page, one of Google’s founders alongside Sergey Brin, wasn’t convinced about the product at the stage it was in 2006.
I just didn’t have the confidence back then to do what I wish I’d done in hindsight: Put together a clear, coherent presentation on why Gdrive was the time to make a rare temporary exception to Google’s product integration strategy
He missed that opportunity in 2006 but he didn’t bury it and look what happened.
Whether it is a health project or a work project that you may be working on, don’t bury it. It is never to late to take the chance.
3. They can become incentives to help us quit.
We must quit, but we must quit those things that don’t serve us a purpose or are taking over the seat of those things that actually better our life.
We associate mistakes with failure because we think of them as the means towards a goal. We are on journey and every time we fail it becomes a road-block on the journey. However, mistakes are successes if we see them as goals.
It is not about discarding or hiding your mistakes but focusing on them. Mistakes can be used as incentives to quit something you may not like. A recent study from the London School of Economics (LSE) tested whether financial incentives worked to encourage and discourage current behavior. The results showed that participants who were paid not to eat jellybeans were more likely to follow through as opposed to the ones who were paid to eat them.
The study hinted on the possibility that it is easier to encourage people to eliminate behavior than to make them engage in new behavior. We potentially prefer to quit than to start.
Instead of getting angry as a result of making a mistake or making the least healthy choice, which solves nothing, changing your perception by using that mistake as motivation might contribute to eliminating undesirable behavior.
Mistakes are not failures but successes in the realization of what behaviors you want to eliminate.
4. Trying is a synonym. Perfection is an antonym.
Mistakes may come as a result of our decision to try. They also take place after we accept that perfection doesn’t exist.
We prefer to forgo the attempt because we know what will happen. It is quite the oxymoron to think that we are fearful of trying if supposedly we already know what will happen. The truth is that we don’t know.
The gambler’s fallacy states that if something is occurring repeatedly during a period it will be less likely to happen in the future. It is a mistaken belief because if nothing substantially changes from here to the future, why would something miraculously stop happening?
Trying creates change. It makes the usual behavior less common and it opens up the possibility of being able to move away from a less desirable place to a more desirable place.
When we know we should prioritize our health, prioritize happiness and put our well-being up front, we delay our actions thinking we will miraculously change. We are in a state of cognitive dissonance. We know what the healthiest choice is but we don’t choose it. We make the mistake of wishing, hoping or dreaming but not trying.
We are not perfect but we can definitely be happy, and that is a much better choice that allows mistakes to be made.
5. People really love mistakes
As much as we enjoy reading success stories we also look forward to reading other people’s struggles. We can feel related, understood and it lessens our feelings of loneliness. These stories, both the success and the struggle ones, usually have a happy ending and it makes us think that by following their lead we will get to the same place they are in.
Since perfection doesn’t exist, I am afraid to say that exact replication most likely doesn’t exist either. The physique of others, the diets of others, the life of others are theirs.
Genetics plays an important role that mustn’t be undermined. The “Swimmers Body Illusion” explains that swimmers don’t necessarily have that sculptured body because of their training but possibly it may be that they are genetically gifted with some traits that make them better at their sport.
Some people may be born with athletic talents others may have astute intelligence or maybe both. They key is to not compare one’s weaknesses with other people’s strengths. There are extremely varied forms to exercise and infinite amount of foods to choose from in order to make your body and mind healthy.
We love mistakes because they allow us to find those things that our body enjoys, to experiment and nurture our sense of curiosity. They also give us something to laugh about when we think back of our childhood.
We love mistakes because they are the result of being curious and brave. Many food recipes and products that we consume are the result of mistakes. I am sure some of your best recipes are too.
For instance, the legend says that potato chips were the result of a failed attempt to please a restaurant customer. George Crum, the cook, was told that a customer was sending back his potatoes for being “too thick”. Slightly annoyed, Crum decided to cut very thin slices of potatoes and fry them up until they were hard rock and practically inedible. The customer actually loved them.
Other stories of food mistake successes include the “Popsicle”. A young boy left a soda glass overnight with a stick inside and found it frozen the next day. Equally, the famous “Crêpe Suzette” dish was born after a waiter burned the sauce.
People love mistakes. People love potato chips, Popsicles and crêpes.
Mistakes are successes you just need to think about what you gain from making them and not what you loose in the process.
Mistakes have been given a fair round of negative critique. Failures are often blamed on mistakes but failures can equally be the result of not taking chances, remaining static and conforming.
Is it a failure to try running and loose the motivation to keep doing it? Or is it a failure to deeply want to try it and never give it a go?
As kids we follow the first one multiple times. We follow phases as we try to figure out if it is sports, music, gardening, dance or fashion that actually inspire us. When we grow up we tend to fall for the second option.
We need to change how we see mistakes. They are opportunities. They are attempts. They are not excuses.
-What “new” name would you give to the act of making mistakes?
-What is your biggest learning from making a mistake?