Is Fear of Stuffing Up Stifling You?
Last week whilst talking with someone about the economy, the possibility of them being laid off and how they thought it was a good time to take a change in career direction came up. As we talked about what they needed to do to make it a successful transition in a down-turned economy they said, “I just wish I knew that this was the right thing to do. It feels like the right thing to do but I just wish I knew for sure it wasn’t going to be a mistake.”
“Ahh, join the club” I thought. “Don’t we all?”
We can wish it were otherwise, but the way life works is that only by risking a mistake now and then (or risking “stuffing up” as we say in Oz), can you ever hope to accomplish the things you’d really like to do and experience the rewarding life you’d love to live.
But what are mistakes anyway? The “mis” in mistake comes from the Latin for wrong and so the word mistake literally translates as to “take wrongly.” So when you make a choice to take one course of action over another and your choice fails to produce to results you wanted (i.e., you got it wrong), you have literally made a mistake.
Obviously there are things you can do to maximize the chances that your actions will produce the results you seek. You can do your “homework,” research your options, create a spreadsheet and analyze the numbers. You can consult your financial advisor, your attorney, your mother or your fortune teller. But if you want to actually do something beyond what you’ve done up to now then at some point you are going to have to let go playing safe and risk stuffing up!
Without Risking Mistakes You Limit Success
No one likes to “stuff up.” Well, no one I’ve met anyway! But look at anyone who has accomplished anything of significance in their life you will find they’ve made a lot more mistakes than someone who has accomplished a little. Any achievement worth your time and energy doesn’t come with a guarantee of instant success. That’s why it takes courage. Only by having the courage to take a risk now and then can you ever hope to have what you want most — whether in your relationships, your career or business or your life in general.
Learn From the Lesson Every Mistake Offers
Whilst you may never relish the experience of making a mistake, you can choose to embrace the learning opportunity each mistake provides. Ultimately you can leverage your mistakes to strengthen your muscles for life and learn more about what you need to do in order to succeed. When you don’t risk mistakes, you sell yourself short, you stagnate and you deprive yourself of ever knowing how strong, resilient and capable you actually are.
Think about how many people who never learn to swim as children never even try to learn as adults. Why? Because they don’t want to go through the same learning curve that every young child does. “Far too humiliating!” Thank goodness we all learnt to walk and talk before our pride and fear got in the way and we took it upon ourselves to decide that our mistakes were a direct reflection of our own worth.
Often Only By Learning What Doesn’t Work Can We Discover What Does
Look back on some of the mistakes you’ve made during your life and you will see that you learnt far more from those experiences that didn’t unfold the way you initially hoped than those which did. When I started out writing my book Find Your Courage! a couple years ago I had no idea what lay beyond the initial writing process. Now that it’s printed I’m still going through a steep learning curve about what it takes to get a book from a collection of thoughts, onto book stores shelves and then, into the hands of readers. Still midway through the process I have no doubt that hindsight will reveal many “mistakes” (or wrong turns). But only by giving it a go can I ever hope to learn. By the way, make sure you get a copy for yourself.
You see, we’ve all got to start somewhere, whether it’s in learning a new skill, entering a new relationship, starting a business, taking on a new role at work, raising kids or writing a book! Part of how we learn what works is by learning first what doesn’t. Edison had to stuff up many many times before he was able to finally succeed. But as he said himself “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
You Are Not Your Mistakes
Whenever you make a mistake, it’s important to distinguish who you are from the results (or lack thereof) that you produced. The fact is, you are not your mistakes. So if your actions produce result Y instead of intended X, see it as just that. You may have stuffed up but that doesn’t mean you’re a stuff up. Not at all. Don’t make your mistakes mean any thing more or less or different than what they are. You made a mistake. That’s it. Period. Time to learn the lesson and move on.
So let go of having to achieve a perfect score when it comes to making the right decision every time. Cut yourself some slack and give yourself permission to not get things 100% right 100% of the time. Of course I am not advocating reckless abandon or irresponsibility. However, I am suggesting that once you’ve decided what you want to do (and done your due diligence) that you step into action toward it despite your doubts and misgivings. Better to choose to do something than to sit idly by waiting for the day to arrive when you know with 100% certainty which move to take (or choice to make) next. That day may be a loooong time coming.
Fear Regret More Than You Do Failure
Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Most folks tiptoe gently through life only to make it safely to death.” So, what new challenges would you take on (and what changes would you make) if you had no fear of stuffing up? Life is way too short to sit on the sidelines wondering what it would be like to play down on center field. So if there is something you’d really love to do, there is no better time than now to make a plan and get started toward it. For if not now, then when? And if not you, then who?
Fear regret more than you do stuffing up now and again. Life’s too short to be lived tip toeing safely through it.