“It’s not the end of the world.”
This is what I sometimes have to tell myself when I make a mistake. I say it to remind myself that I’m blowing things a wee bit out of proportion.
I feel horrible when I make a mistake. Even when my mistakes don’t hurt someone else or result in total catastrophe (they rarely do). On one hand, this shows that I care about my work. On the other hand, it also shows that I have a tendency toward perfectionism.
One of the first things I’ve had to learn in order to overcome this perfectionism is that making mistakes isn’t so horrible. In fact, screwing things up every now and then is a good sign.
Mistakes are good.
If you’re not making many mistakes, you’re not trying new things or taking risks. You’re playing it safe. That’s no way to grow.
Mistakes are opportunities.
They show you what doesn’t work so you can get that much closer to what does work.
They may help you stumble onto a new way of looking at the problem or goal. Have you ever tried to purposefully screw something up?
Making mistakes on purpose is an actual business strategy smart companies use to innovate and solve problems. Here’s an article that explains how to do it all sly and smart by identifying assumptions and challenging them with deliberate mistakes.
When you didn’t mean to do that: Errors on the goal getting journey
Whoops. Somewhere along the line you made an error in judgment and some part of your plan went awry. Your goal of selling 100 knitted doggy sweaters on Etsy was seriously thwarted when photos of your product on adorable doggy models came out blurry.
You planned to hike with friends but a night of revelry (again) caused you to oversleep and miss out on the fun and exercise. You’re never gonna hike the PCT with that track record cuz it takes more than reading Wild to make it.
You sent your big proposal to the wrong email address (off by one letter!) so you never heard back on that job you wanted.
Maybe you thought a combination of kick ass testimonials and tempting discounts would launch your biz into superstardom but instead you’re barely squeaking by. (All business-related analogies brought to you by a recent afternoon I spent binge watching The Profit. Love that show.)
D’oh! Dude, you have only yourself to blame. That’s totally okay, though, because you can fix this.
How’d you go wrong?
Sometimes it’s obvious where you screwed up. Sometimes not so much. Maybe it’s a bunch of trial and error until you figure out why you’re not getting results.
Give yourself a little time and space to be pissed/irritated/upset, but then pull yourself up by your big girl panties and figure this shit out.
- Review what you’ve been doing so far and compare this to the progress you’ve made. What have been the results of your actions? Where they what you thought they’d be? If you’re not tracking your progress, these things may not be so clear to you. Track that progress!
- Get back to the basics. When you set your goal, what did you identify as the key proponents of getting that goal? Did you get off track and forget what was truly important? Did you get distracted by shiny objects that took you away from what you really should have been working on? Sooo easy to do. It may be time to revisit your original goal getting plan to find out if you’ve been doing the work you said you needed to do.
- Once you figure out where you went wrong, act quickly. But be very deliberate. Do you know what’s even more annoying than making a mistake? Being in such a rush to repair it that you make another mistake and further compound the problem.
- Embrace mistakes by adjusting your goals in anticipation of making them. Kate Spade (now Kate Valentine since she sold her iconic line) did this with her new line of accessories. She said she would start the new company Frances Valentine on a smaller scale to start because she understood they were bound to make mistakes. Smaller mistakes, are, after all, usually easier to fix and recover from. Consider either extending your goal deadline or setting your goal a little lower to start (especially if what you’re doing is new to you!)
- However, if small goals bore you and prove less-than-inspiring (I get it), create a plan and schedule regular time in your goal getting to review your actions and progress. Is what you’re doing so far working? It might be too early to tell so understand that it might take more time before you get to the root of the wrongdoing.
- Seek frequent feedback so you can identify your mistakes sooner rather than later. Have you ever worked on a project, put painstaking effort and concentration into it, and then had someone come up and point out a typo? Grrrr. Why didn’t you see that? Cuz you were too close to the work. Honest feedback is essential.
- How have other people succeeded at doing what you want to do?
- How can you fix it? Does it really even need to be “fixed”? There are such things as happy accidents. You could have just stumbled and mistaked yourself into greatness!
- What else can you do? Is there something you think you should probably be doing, but for whatever reason, you’re not?
- What part of the goal scares you the most? That’s probably the part that you’re avoiding.
- What part of the goal is most difficult/foreign/new to you? That could be another area that’s not getting the time and attention it needs.
- What is the worst that could happen?
No matter what, remember: it’s not the end of the world.
You can borrow my mantra whenever you need to, goal getter. Now let’s shed fear and perfectionism and get messy. Adventures in goal getting! Our mistakes will move us forward as long as we learn from them.
Comment with the most recent or biggest mistake you’ve made when working toward a goal. What’d you learn from that? I promise you’re not alone in your wrong turns.