Mistake: Guilt Machine or Great Legacy?

How to transform mistakes into lessons

Photo by Daniela Holzer on Unsplash

Since our childhood, we have always been bombarded with the notion that a mistake is something we have done wrong, something we should not do, something like leprosy. In school notebooks, it is imprinted by the red markings of the teacher’s pen. At home, it is expressed by the disapproving look on the parents’ faces or, possibly, by their yelling. Among friends, there‘ll be laughing or comments.

It follows us

As the years pass by, until adulthood and after our integration into the “18 and over” category, the majority’s attitude towards the concept of mistake — whether expressed this way or in words such as “failure” — is about the same. The mindset that mistake/wrong is equal to a disaster has already been cultivated within us and guilt has already been …planted.

Mistakes have the capacity of appearing everywhere. At school and studies, at work, in our daily life, in our relationships. No one can avoid them. There are where people exist. Have you ever wondered why?

Circles until getting the suitable lesson

Experience is the name people give to their mistakes,” according to Oscar Wilde. Experience, if used correctly, helps to avoid the same mistakes. We will make new ones, of course! Because every person has a purpose to accomplish and a lesson to take. If this goal is not achieved, we will be drawn to similar situations in order to make the same “mistake” and enjoy its teaching. The new error has a new lesson to offer. The utility of each “misfire” and whether it will be transformed into an acquired experience, depends on how we handle it and how we deal with the concept of mistake in general.

Is it still a mistake if we realize it?

In Greek language, “mistake” is called “lathos” and it comes from the verb “lanthano”, which means something like “I hide”. Once I see it and I understand it, it’s not a “lathos” anymore. It comes to light. And if you think about it, “mis- take” (in English) is something not far from this. It’s something we misunderstood in a way, something we did not “see” well, something that escaped our attention and was left in obscurity, forgotten, unrevealed. The moment we observe it and find out that it happened, it ceases to be mis-taken. And we can do something about it…

How can you make a “mistake” to give a useful legacy?

Step 1:

Re-phrase. Redefine the whole thing and treat it as an object of observation.

Step 2:

Accept that what has happened cannot be undone and that it was the best you could do at the time.

Step 3:

Take responsibility, and don’t disorientate yourself by blaming others, the unfair society, your parents, the environment, the invisible forces that have instigated you, as if you were a helpless victim. Face it as an adult.

You don’t need guilt. You need action.

After all, guilt has no meaning and no practical function.

On the contrary, guilt often multiplies, reproduces, and drowns us, keeping us idle about the act that created it or causing us to be frustrated and inclined to repeat the “mistake”, since “we are incapable of doing anything correctly.”

Accepting the situation and taking responsibility is nothing but a defeatist attitude as many people think. On the contrary, it gives us strength because it makes it clear that everything is in our hands. It may not be undone, but it has the potential to help us for the rest of our lives.

Step 4:

Decide to take action, to transform ‘mistake’/‘failure’ into a lesson.

Step 5:

Explore the origin of the error, its features, possible repetitive patterns, your emotions, your reactions, what causes it.

• How did this happen;

• At what time (of the process/day/management of that situation) did the mistake occur?

• To what extent does it affect the situation/project/relationship etc?

• What are its consequences (for me and those involved) and how can I minimize them?

• Has it happened again? If so, what is the frequency, and what usually happens? Are similar things usually preceded? How do I generally feel about things like the ones I find to precede my failure? What is my mood and why am I so affected?

Step 6:

Create a plan for the next time, and try to be preventive.

• How can I identify (around me, in my thoughts, in my body, my mood) what I found to be ahead of the error the next time they occur? With what signs?

• What can I say to myself at this point, to remind me that these signs have usually led me to this mistake in the past?

• What will I be thinking and doing at the moment?

• What can stop me or make me ignore the “mistake management system” I am now building?

• What skills will I use at that time to overcome this obstacle I may put to myself?

• How can I reward myself if I do not succumb to the obstacle and finally apply the management system I am now building?

Step 7:

Clearly articulate the lesson you learned from your “mistake” and express your gratitude for what you have learned.

In conclusion

Everything (ourselves included) has a dipole inside and always comes with both positive and negative elements. The thing that matters in the end, is how we use it. Technology, for example, has the potential to benefit (artificial limb of a person who has only one leg after an accident) but also to destroy (brain control and crowd brainwashing). Whether it will be a benefactor or a destructor, depends on how it is used and on our intention. A knife can cut lettuce beautifully but it can also cut one’s “line” of life. The way we choose to use it will make the difference.

The same thing happens with the mistake (or failure). Our intention and our choice on how to handle it will determine whether it‘ll be a guilt machine or a great legacy.

Anthi Psomiadou — CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International : Credit must be given to the creator/ Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted/ No derivatives

Writing, Life Coaching, Criminology, and more. But I simply do these, I am not these. I just am.

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