The Benefits of Making Mistakes

Magie Cook

Making Mistakes

For more information on Magie Cook, click here.

Mistakes, often seen as blunders to avoid, are intrinsic to the human experience. Let’s face it — we’re only human. Every single one of us has made mistakes, but how we respond when we do or say things wrong defines us as problem solvers. In my career, I can tell you that some of my most valuable learning experiences have come from making mistakes. The learning process is simply that — a process. It’s imperfect, messy, and challenging, but if we learn to embrace mistakes and all of the knowledge they gift us, we inch ourselves closer to success. In a world that celebrates perfection, we tend to overlook the transformative power and benefits of mistakes. We take such great care in our professional and personal lives to avoid failure, that we lose valuable opportunities to look at the bigger picture and identify areas for learning critical life lessons and skills. In this blog post, we will explore the surprising benefits of making mistakes and how they shape us into resilient, adaptable, and wiser individuals. By embracing our imperfections and reframing mistakes as stepping stones, we unlock the immense potential for growth and self-discovery. Let’s dive into the untold advantages of embracing our missteps and celebrating the beauty of being beautifully flawed.

Mistakes are opportunities for learning and personal development

Mistakes are profound opportunities for learning and growth. When we make mistakes, we gain valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t. A shift in perspective is all it takes to understand this principle; in the words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If we never make mistakes, we miss these opportunities for improvement in our approach. Progress is direction, not perfection. Each error provides a chance to reflect, adapt, and improve. Embracing mistakes allows us to approach life as a continuous learning journey, empowering us to refine our skills, deepen our understanding, and evolve into better versions of ourselves.

Mistakes help us build resilience

Resilience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks, is fortified through our experiences with mistakes. If we never experience failure, we miss out on the wonderful practice that facing challenging setbacks provides us as we learn and grow. When we encounter challenges, we develop resilience by picking ourselves up, learning from the misstep, and moving forward with newfound determination. Confidence is built from building ourselves back up from failures, and not shying away from the lessons learned. Embracing mistakes equips us with the emotional strength to face adversities with grace, knowing that we possess the power to overcome obstacles and emerge stronger.

Mistakes test our ability to think creatively

Mistakes inspire creativity and innovation. Research shows that when students are allowed the freedom to make mistakes in the learning process, they become more adept at solving problems and achieving greater academic success. If we avoid making mistakes, we rob ourselves of developing a new perspective. Often, groundbreaking discoveries and inventions arise from unexpected errors. We don’t even have to look that far back in our history to find an example:

    • The discovery of penicillin: In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming returned to his lab from a two-week vacation to find a strange mold growing in a dish contaminated with staphylococci, the bacteria that causes staph infection. The mold prevented the staph from propagating, and thus, he had accidentally discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin.

    • The invention of the pacemaker: In 1956, Wilson Greatbach was building a device meant to record the rhythm of the heart when he accidentally grabbed a part that was too small for his initial device. Once installed, he saw that the circuit emitted pulses that reminded him of a heartbeat’s rhythm. From that mistake, he wondered if it would be possible to make a device that was small, implantable, and able to stimulate the heart. Thus, the pacemaker was born, and has saved countless lives since its invention.

    • The discovery of plastic-eating bacteria: As recently as 2016, Japanese scientists led by Kohei Oda discovered a bacteria capable to breaking down common plastics. In their attempt to study it further, they accidentally made its plastic-eating abilities more potent, creating a bacteria capable of breaking down plastics at a rapid pace.

Pick any one example, and it’s clear that making mistakes is simply a stepping stone to great discoveries. Critical thinkers become better problem solvers and stumble upon greater innovation if they learn to embrace the process, rather than the result. Success flows from the problem solving, itself! Embracing mistakes invites us to explore uncharted territories and experiment fearlessly. The freedom to make mistakes fosters creativity, pushing us beyond our comfort zones and unlocking our untapped potential.

Mistakes allow us to build empathy and recognize our support systems

Embracing our own mistakes cultivates empathy for others. In a sense, how we respond to the mistakes of others reflects how well we practice compassion for ourselves when we make errors of our own. To lead with compassion is to develop a greater empathy for our peers, and in turn, we can’t help but inspire the same from others when we are facing tough challenges. We realize that errors are an inherent part of the human experience, fostering understanding and compassion. Additionally, sharing our mistakes and vulnerabilities with others creates authentic connections, allowing us to support and uplift each other through life’s ups and downs. No one is perfect, and reminding ourselves of this fact is a natural part of climbing out of a fixed mindset of perfectionism — where we hold everyone, including ourselves, to an impossible standard — and cultivating a community of strong relationships.

Mistakes encourage us to embrace the journey

Embracing mistakes shifts our focus from the destination to the journey itself. Life becomes a tapestry of experiences, growth, and self-discovery. We are all students of the world, where our experiences and growth teach us far more than any one achievement. How boring would it be if we simply had success thrown at us, without any of the work, effort, and growth needed? When we shift our priorities from razor sharp focus on the future, we learn to appreciate the mess, the challenges, and the reality that success is built on a solid foundation of development. Mistakes become valuable milestones on our path to personal development, reminding us to cherish each moment, no matter how imperfect. The lessons are in the journey and the hard work involved, not in the goal.

Final Thoughts

Mistakes are not failures but stepping stones that shape our character and propel us toward growth. By embracing our missteps, we unlock the transformative power of learning, resilience, creativity, and empathy. Let us challenge the notion of perfection and celebrate the beauty of being human—beautifully flawed and ever-evolving. Embrace your mistakes, for they are the keys to unlocking the doors of self-discovery and the catalysts for a life enriched with wisdom, compassion, and authenticity.

Share the knowledge!