When we know how to do something right, we feel good. We are in the safety of our comfort zone where everything is familiar. Making a mistake is often, yet falsely, viewed as a sign of incompetence. Not being good enough. Your ability to learn from your mistakes is all about your mindset, your beliefs about learning and intelligence. Viewing mistakes as a learning tool will increase the chances that you actually learn something.
What happens to the brain when you make a mistake
Do you know what your brain thinks about making mistakes? When a mistake is made, synapses in your brain fire. These are electrical signals that move between parts of the brain when you learn something new. Three different things can happen in our brain when we are learning: either new pathways are formed or already existing pathways in the brain become strengthened or already existing pathways connect in the brain in a new way. The times when we are challenged are actually the best for brain growth.
Creating a mistake-friendly environment is essential for personal growth
But also your environment plays a crucial role in how we perceive the making of mistakes. A study conducted at a school suggests what most of you might already be thinking. The psychologists compared the environment of mistake friendly and mistake unfriendly classrooms. What they found is that in the mistake friendly classrooms, students increased their effort put in their work. The fear of being wrong can be paralyzing. As you can see, when you create an environment where mistakes a natural part of life, you actually increase your chances for success.
Overconfidence can prevent learning
So, we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. Not only that, sometimes we should plainly consider where we could be wrong. You see, on the other side of fear of failure, we have overconfidence. Taking into consideration where you could be wrong helps in training subjective confidence. When we are overly confident, we don’t put as much effort into learning anymore. Since… well, you know it all already, right? And whether it is fear of failure or overconfidence, none of these two mindsets will help you learn or achieve success.
Making mistakes and self-talk
Creating an environment where failure, errors and mistakes are seen as a natural part of learning is crucial. So how exactly can we do that? It all starts with you. More specifically your self-talk. What do you say to yourself after you’ve made a mistake? Do you say: I am so stupid! Or do you say: I made a stupid mistake. Let’s take a look at the differences between these two statements. The first one is tearing down your self-confidence and attacking your personal identity as a smart and capable person. If you are stupid, you can’t be smart, right? What the second statement does is admitting to the mistake. Once again, it’s perfectly human to make mistakes.
Perfection is not only subjective but also highly overrated. The ability to learn without fearing judgement from anyone else or even yourself is what will make you into a smarter and more capable person. Of course, this isn’t about not trying hard in the first place or seeking to make as many mistakes as possible. But try giving yourself the privilege of making a mistake from time to time and see what you might discover.