Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What mistakes are good for


Have you ever made a mistake?  Like it or not we all make them.   

My mom had a saying, "If you can cover it up, it's not a mistake."  It makes me wonder what kind of mistake she was talking about.  Was it while she was cooking and I ate it?  Was it while she was sewing and I wore an imperfect dress?  Was it while she was disciplining me and I have blocked it out of my memory?

We tend to bury our inadequacies and weaknesses.  Some of us are pro at making them disappear without even a nod.  There are some mistakes that debilitate us and we don't dare speak of them.  Other mistakes cost us money, time, and energy.  I have learned lots in making many mistakes over the years.  

There are days that I think this blog is a mistake.

I've learned to expect the unexpected falls, the failures, and the mess-ups.  But if you are like me, you like to avoid those pitfalls.   Recently I've learned that mistakes can actually help you.  And not trying to work through a mistake is the failure.

You have to decide to be better and to try again.  

"What do I do if I fall?"  That small question was posed to me by my 3-year-old grandson, Avery, who was riding his bike around the block.  He had his helmet strapped on and was giving his ride some good energy.  I thought about my answer as I jogged alongside.  I told him, "We have to get back up and finish strong."

"But what if I can't?" he asked, with worry in his voice.  "You have to decide to try again.  You have to choose to do better."  I replied.

Isn't this true of our faith journeys too?  We fail at something and think we've misheard from God, or don't deserve a second chance at obedience?  We quickly spiral into a defense mode making excuses that erode our confidence.  What I'm learning in the trying again, re-doing, in the "make another or better effort" is that there is a strengthened power at work in the recovery of our mistakes.  

The human spirit is resilient, and hope helps us get there.  

One failure that I have experienced in the past is a stab at regular exercise, specifically running.  It never has been a part of my healthy regime, and for years only periodically, have tried to improve that habit.  Recently though I've been pretty good at making exercise a priority, and it just so happens I started with running.  But I have to be honest with you, my motivation needs a redo about every day.  It's an old habit that I am trying to break letting self-control do a new thing in my tired self.    

Another thing is that I'm learning to lead myself in successes versus failures.  I'm choosing to try again and give every attempt to bring my best.  Like in this blog.  I am choosing to get back up and try again. 

Ever since I've left a full-time job where I've had more time to write, I have wasted a lot of minutes deciding what to share with you or editing what I have started to share with you.  I have even made several attempts at writing a book and scrapped some of it because it wasn't perfect.  And yet, I started again.  I'm trying.  


I feel that I've failed at being a good blogger with over 100 drafts left unfinished.  But yet, I find myself back at this place wanting to push publish, putting my lest-than-perfect grammar skills to the test.  The plummeting numbers of this little blog project don't sit well as they shout failure, rejection, and boredom.  

Want to know what doesn't feel good?  Mess-ups, re-dos, mistakes, failures and falls.  What's powerful in the re-dos and the un-dos, is the lessons learned because of them.  

I have been taking inventory of my past lessons.  It's good to remember back and see how you've grown.  I have found what I am made of and know that I have to keep trying.  I must keep trying.  I realize that I’m far from perfect, and but I know God still has a lot of work to do in me.  

Another thing I have found out is that you might be just like me, on the inside, and while we all share the commonality of failing to live up to our better nature, we also share the bond of being able to start again.  You might just hide your failure better than me.  The biggest mistake I have made is being afraid to try again.  

The problems start when you stop taking action just because you are afraid of making a mistake.  That gives your inner critic licence to capitalize on your failures.  You can probably relate to this kind of self-talk. You might even have indulged in it.  Even if the mistake is a small spelling error, the blame and sarcasm that we direct at ourselves is always disproportionate – and damaging.

There's a hiss in the wings that's waiting to pounce on your imperfections and wants to contribute to your already full-volume spews of worthlessness.  It can be hard not to listen to that voice. It is relentless, and we may start to believe that it is telling the truth.  The inner critic is a liar who wants you step back into the shadows of your own insecurities and self-doubt for fear of making more mistakes and looking like a fool.

I believe that one can't move forward without making mistakes!

Even pros make mistakes.  The difference is that professionals don’t let mistakes put a stop to their progress.  Making mistakes is a big part of our learning process.  We learn better by making blunders and failing forward.  To fail forward is to have the courage to keep going even after we have messed up.

Why is it important to make mistakes?  So that you learn to take risks, push yourself hard, go far with your dreams, and better yourself in mistakes.  Mistakes are necessary for continued progress.  Accept this fact. Understanding that mistakes are unavoidable are an essential part of achieving growth.

Every mistake offers a lesson to be learned.  Look for the lesson, and try not to repeat it.  The best way to learn is from experience.  Silence the inner critic by getting back in the saddle as soon as possible.  Your inner critic will try very hard to prevent you from trying, it may even make you quit altogether.  I have found that the best way to silence the accuser is to slam the door on negativity, to get back up and finish strong.  

What you’re actually doing is trying to become different, unique, and you – not a different version of another person, but a more authentic version of yourself.  That’s the thing about making mistakes — it builds character, helps you become strong enough to do what you need to do in order to achieve the tangible, material goals.  The reward is in the transformation in character that comes along with it. 

It's about the beautiful exchange and the resilient change in you over all.  

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”   - Ray Bradbury
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