Learning From Mistakes

I made a mistake. 

My wife wants me to admit that right up front in this week’s email: I made a mistake. 

Yep, sometimes I have a hard time acknowledging and accepting them. 

Last week’s email included a video a week too soon. The video you were supposed to see last week is actually being published today. So, let me share my thoughts about the video from last week as it actually ties into mental toughness myth #3.

Mistakes mean we are human. Mistakes mean we can learn.  Mistakes mean SO many things.

Why do so many people chase their mistakes? Often we are afraid our mistakes define us.  Most of the time we choose to believe those mistake definitions more than what the people around us might say.

When we screw up, we feel vulnerable, exposed, and embarrassed. We might even feel sad and disappointed if they are more important mistakes. My experience has been that all those emotions make it hard to acknowledge them.  

A client once told me that if she screwed up she felt that she would “look like an idiot.”  I asked her to draw me a picture of an idiot. She tried numerous times. When I asked if everyone who looked at her drawing would know that she was drawing an idiot, she said no.  After three attempts she said, “I can’t draw one!” 

I asked, “Why?” 

She replied, “There is definition for what one should look like.”  

All people – smart, rich, pretty, athletic, happy – make mistakes. Remember when Tom Brady forgot it was fourth down last season? He’s human, just like every one of us and, though maybe rare, makes mistakes, too.

You can fail at something, but that doesn’t make you a failure, even if it feels like it.  It doesn’t mean you are damaged and hopeless. It just means you have to forgive yourself, let it go, learn from it, and try again.  

Lara Boyd summarizes much of what I have learned throughout my career and what I have been sharing with you.    

Learning how to see failure as an event and opportunity takes time and deliberate practice. It takes ignoring the meaning our culture makes.  No one player or athlete loses a game or match.   

Create a process for learning from your failures. Mine (which I stole from sport psychology legend Ken Arvizu) looks like this:

1) What was I trying to do? 

2) What did I do?

3) What am I going to do different next time?  

Change the conversation. Drop the stigma.