I recently heard a story about Nolan, who is three, running into the house to retrieve another ball. He had to get another because Kurt, who is 47, “made a really BIG mistake,” having tossed the ball into the neighbor’s fenced yard, where it couldn’t be retrieved. This led me to ponder how I think about making mistakes, and how, like crying or vomiting in public, I’ve spent much of my life avoiding it.
The truth is, we will make mistakes along the path to our own truest life. And while we’ve all heard that we have to make mistakes to learn and to grow, and we’ve all nodded our heads in agreement, there’s something different about the quality of the mistake-making when we are finally, really, truly ok with it. In my experience, that doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen.
I realized recently that no one ever taught me how to be wrong, gracefully and from a place of strength. I was brought up to believe that only the right answers are good, a concept reinforced by years of report cards featuring “A’s” across the board. I can’t remember a time where I was recognized for a mistake and praised for the subsequent learning.
So I’m aways interested, as I work with clients, to know more about how we, as adults, learn how to embrace being wrong as part of the learning process, and alleviate the suffering of shame, self-doubt, and self-flagellation that can accompany it. In work I did recently with Martha Beck Master Coach Terry DeMeo, I discovered that my own cat o’ nine tails and hair shirt were never far from reach, but that I had a choice about whether to use one (or both).
Learning how to allow myself to be wrong, and (dare I say it?) not…perfect…is part of a path I’m choosing to liberate myself from the debilitating habit of hanging on to mistakes, regretting them, or judging myself because “I should have known better.” The fact is that I didn’t know better, and now, thanks to some major or minor screwup, I do.