Don’t Make the Mistake of Undervaluing Mistakes
Only the dead don’t make mistakes.
Linda: I came across a story that I just love. A very well known scientist who had achieved remarkable medical breakthroughs, was being interviewed by a journalist who asked him what he thought made him different from the other scientists all of whom were equally brilliant, well trained and experienced, yet who didn’t have the same success as he. The reporter asked, “How was it that you were the one who consistently makes medical breakthroughs?”
The scientist thought for a moment and responded that he thought it all went back to when he was a very small child. One day he was trying to take a bottle of milk from the refrigerator and his little hands lost his grip and the entire contents poured out on to the floor. Instead of his mother getting mad at him, she instead said, “Oh my, what a wonderful mess you have made! I can’t remember when I ever saw such a huge puddle of milk! Now that it’s done, would you like to play in it before we clean it up?”
And so instead of feeling horrible about the “mistake” he had made, the little boy experienced the “catastrophe” as something positive. After a short while, his mother then said, “Now when we make a mess like this, eventually we have to clean it up so what would you like to use, a towel, a mop or a sponge?”
After they had cleaned it up, his mother said, “Now what we have here is a failed experiment of how to take a big bottle of milk out of the refrigerator with two little hands. So now let’s go outside and fill up the bottle with water and let’s experiment and see if you can figure out how to carry it without dropping it.” And so they did.
What a great lesson. The scientist learned at that moment that mistakes were a natural part of the learning process and that you should never be afraid of making mistakes. Later in life he transferred that awareness to his experiments and while other scientists were spending time being careful to never fail or were justifying their mistakes, he was busy doing more experiments never worrying about getting them “right”. These continuous experiments eventually led to extraordinary medical breakthroughs that saved thousands of lives.
When I read the story I was at first inspired, and then I had a critic attack comparing myself to his wise mom. Oh, to have just one more chance to parent, there are so many things that I would do differently now. That scientist’s mother could have won the Mother of The Year award. I was never eligible for Mother of The Year award. I was a “good enough mother.” I know I can’t go back to correct for the impatience and irritability that I brought to too many interactions with my children years ago when I was a stress case attempting to have a career and bring up the kids without giving myself adequate support.
Fortunately, I’m no longer a stress case and thank goodness I have a close enough relationship with both my son and daughter that I can show up in a deeply loving way these days. And thank goodness too for the opportunity to spend time with my three grandsons, to teach them about taking risks and learning from their so called mistakes. With them, I can be that consistently patient and adoring figure that I wanted so badly to be for my own children. When my children were young, I hadn’t yet matured enough to be the excellent parent I longed to be, but now I get to have chance to nurture abundantly with their children. I learned from my mistakes.
I am reminded of another story: A man travels many miles to consult the wisest guru in the land. When he arrives, he asks the wise man, “Oh wise guru, what is the secret of a happy life?” “Good judgment,” said the guru. “But oh wise guru,” said the man, “How do I achieve good judgment?” “Bad judgment,” said the guru. As long as we keep learning from our mistakes and bad judgment to make wiser choices, I know we will continue to grow wiser, and that’s huge. Apparently I need both stories, the first to hold a lofty vision of being grandmother charming, and the second one to be compassionate and understanding about not having been mom charming. I’m still learning. Hopefully we all are.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate
Bloom, L. (2016). Don’t Make the Mistake of Undervaluing Mistakes. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 20, 2017, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2016/09/dont-make-the-mistake-of-undervaluing-mistakes/