Making mistakes | Let

Making mistakes

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

If the fear of failing or making a mistake affects you in your search for a job or in the workplace you're not alone. No matter how confident or capable someone seems they've made mistakes before. The difference is they've learnt from those mistakes.

I understand what it's like to be afraid of making mistakes.

When I was in high school I hated giving speeches. I feared I'd say the wrong thing and everyone would think I was stupid.

When I was at TAFE and UNI I was worried about my assessment tasks. I worried what would happen if I didn't do well and I couldn't understand my other group members that wouldn't start their part of the assessment tasks until the night before it was due. If they made a mistake there would be no time to correct it.

When I started applying for jobs I was worried what the employer would think about me and expect from me. Would I be seen as a fraud if I didn't know how to answer a question or complete a task I'd only studied how to do, but never actually done before?

So, I understand if you're uncomfortable with mistakes. I certainly try not to make mistakes, but they do occasionally happen. When they do happen I try to learn from them, which I think is one of the important things to do if you've made a mistake.

In order to help recognise and overcome your fears it helps to understand why you're afraid. In this case it's the outcome or the consequences you think will result from making a mistake. Often our minds go straight to the worst outcome. What will people think, how will they react, will I be punished?

Your first thought may be to hide from the situation when you make a mistake. In the short term, hiding from your mistakes makes you feel better because you don't have to deal with them or their consequences. However, this is only a quick fix and it can make things worse. When you hide from your mistakes you don't learn from them. If you keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, they will start compounding and cause greater problems that take longer to fix. This is why it's important to learn from your mistakes and own up to them while they're small and manageable.

When you take a step back and think about the situation for a minute, you'll see that not all mistakes have drastic consequences. If you can correct the mistake and show that you understand why you made the mistake. That goes a long way to reassuring people that you won't make it again.

Part of learning from your mistakes is changing your perspective and your expectations. Remember, we all make mistakes. There have been many discoveries or inventions that were only made because of someone's mistake. Now this doesn't mean you should try to make mistakes or be intentionally careless. If you don't put effort into everything you do to make sure it's correct, this can lead to you getting into trouble for performance reasons. Just realise that you're not infallible, mistakes happen and that's okay, as long as you deal with them when they do happen.

In order to help you learn from your mistakes, there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to avoid repeating the same mistake multiple times.

  1. What were you doing and what were you expecting to happen?
  2. What was the outcome or what happened that you weren't expecting?
  3. Why did this outcome happen?
  4. What do you think you could do differently next time so this doesn't happen again?
  5. What have you learned from this mistake?

Once you've reflected on your mistake and learnt what to do differently next time, the final thing you need to do is move on. Don't continue to obsess over what went wrong. When you're so focused on what you did wrong or what could go wrong, it ends up affecting your mood by stressing you out and eventually making you miserable. Obsessing over what happened or could have happened also leads to procrastination and performance issues. When all your attention is focused on how bad a situation could have been, you'll find it difficult to concentrate on your work.

Aim to do well and strive for success, but give yourself the permission to not be perfect.

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