Growth Mindset (Part 4)

The Importance of Reframing Mistakes

It turns out that making, paying attention to, and correcting our mistakes is actually one of the very best ways our brains learn.

But for some, mistakes can seem fatal. Forgetting a name, getting a question wrong, making an error at work… all of these can be deeply troubling, especially for one who already might feel like they just never get better at the things they’re struggling with. Mistakes and failures in these situations can feel embarrassing, frustrating, and intimidating, especially if they’re worried about a negative response from spouses, bosses, or peers. And while these emotions may be understandable, they can have negative consequences on their ability to learn.

People with a fixed mindset may respond to mistakes or failures by avoiding challenging work or may not try their best because they believe that their failure is a sign that they just aren’t smart, so “what’s the point?” These individuals shy away from challenges and often avoid doing the hard work in their careers and life. Because they’d rather not try than try and fail, they often don’t address the biggest hurdles, and as a result, don’t partake in their potential biggest successes and personal growth.

You make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you.

Maxwell Maltz

One of the best tips I can give you is a fresh perspective on mistakes and failures in life. Mistakes are actually essential to learning. No one gets better at anything without first making some mistakes and going through some struggles.

Here are a few ways you can practice positive self-talk:

I want you to see challenges as the new “normal.” We often praise others for doing something exceedingly well, such as breezing through a bunch of easy work. But getting a lot of easy tasks means that the person hasn’t been learning. They’ve just been applying what they already know in a zone of comfort. Real learning and growth happen when things get hard. Taking on challenges is when we learn the most.

So when you make a mistake or fail at something, keep these two points in mind:

  1. Mistakes are inevitable if you’re doing something worthwhile. You could avoid mistakes if you just never tried anything hard. Even world-class performers made mistakes when they were learning, and still make mistakes today. For this reason, mistakes don’t mean that you are inherently bad or different.
  2. Mistakes are not just inevitable side-effects, they are actually clues for learning. Great performers study their mistakes to figure out where they went wrong. A mistake is a gift of feedback – rather than just getting disappointing results, you can take it as feedback about what you need to fix to get better.

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