Why making a mistake isn’t the end of the world

By Angela Cox

If you’ve ever been afraid of making a mistake, getting something wrong or stepping outside of your comfort zone, you’re not alone. We all have moments in life when we fear this exact situation. You might experience a wave of warmth flooding from the top of your head to the pit of your stomach as the realisation of the mistake hits you. And then the sense of panic as you start to grapple with how it happened and the dreaded notion of ‘what will people think? ARGHHHHH

But what if I told you that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world? What if I went one step further and encouraged you to make mistakes?

You might think that’s a ridiculous thing to say to a person, but the reasons behind it are actually grounded in psychological research, and they centre on two different mindsets, fixed mindset and growth mindset. Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck coined the terms during research she carried out to understand the beliefs people have about intelligence and learning.

She found that many of us hold a fixed mindset about learning and intelligence, we believe that intelligence is innate. Which really just means, we think you’ve either got it or you don’t. But if we think some people are just naturally smart, creative, or athletic it means that we wrongly assume that it’s not possible to learn how to be smart, creative or athletic.

But what if we held a growth mindset instead? Well for starters we wouldn’t believe that some people are just naturally gifted, and others aren’t, in fact quite the opposite. We would recognise that we can all learn and achieve anything we want, with enough time, practice, and mistakes.

You see the beauty of making mistakes is that every time we make one, we are engaged in an activity of learning. In the moment that it happened we were bold enough to step outside our comfort zone and try something new. Making mistakes are a necessary part of learning, and something that we shouldn’t be afraid of.

Because if we allowed every mistake we made to stop us from trying again, we probably wouldn’t even be walking, talking, functioning adults right now. Every failure, every mistake, teaches us something new, something we need to know in order to make progress in life.

One of the biggest reasons why we’re afraid to make mistakes is because we think we’ll look stupid in front of other people, or they’ll judge us for our failure. But what if we focused on developing a growth mindset instead. A mindset that tells us that fail simply means first attempt in learning. When we hold this mindset, we embrace new challenges knowing they will come with new mistakes, but most importantly, new learnings.

Our mistakes shape the people we become, they’re as important as our successes, maybe even more so. If we could do everything in life right first time, it would be a pretty boring existence.

So next time you feel worried about a mistake you have made, channel your growth mindset and ask yourself, would you rather have tried and failed than never tried at all? We have to fail in order to learn.

Making a mistake isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a whole new journey.

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