Monday, February 1, 2016

Failing is Part of it: How to Succeed in Making Mistakes?

**Taken from from The Coaching Booster Book 

When I have autonomy I grow. Yes, and mainly when I have room for experimentation and making mistakes. 

“The only way to never fail is to never try” or “we learn from our mistakes” – these are sentences we believe many of us hear again and again since our childhood. Making room for trying and making mistakes is one of the things we believe in the most. After all, we all make mistakes, all the time. The question is do we learn from our mistakes? Meaning: do we truly learn? And the more important question is do we know how to make mistakes in order to learn? 
Don’t avoid making mistakes. Really, don’t. We even recommend you feel free to make mistakes. Don’t stop trying even if it means making mistakes. 

The idea is to know how to fail well.

Shirly’s son for instance, he’s a champion in computer games. The kind that have levels, adventures, where the main player gains power and knowledge … . And he didn’t start playing from the highest level and become a champ without making mistakes, right? He kept failing, correcting, repeating, re-experiencing, getting better, failing gain. And in the end he feels on top of the world. Why? Because it’s OK to fail and correct. Because he has the space, the legitimacy and autonomy to fail. His feeling of uccess comes from his ability to correct and make progress. There’s nothing like small failures and small successes as part of an experience to make us feel capable and successful. 

Same goes with ourselves and our coachee. Our ability to grow derives from our experiences. But not just any experience – it’s our ability to fail, to correct, try again and get better … . We don’t have to get frightened and shy away every time we make a mistake. We do have to be brave, take a good look at our mistake and work to improve on it. 

So how to succeed in making mistakes?

1. Don’t be afraid to try.

How do people become master sportsmen? How does someone become a master at any field? By trying. A lot. Trying that comes from the ability to learn and get better. Fear is one of the most powerful inhibitors to learning new things – use it. 

2. By making small steps, 

our mistakes will also be smaller, more digestible and easier to fix. They will also increase our sense of autonomy to make mistakes. Just like in a computer game. Small mistakes are more controllable, they teach us more. They are also less scary, less noisy and surely less harmful. 

3. Inspecting our experiences and our mistakes is another important part of knowing how to make mistakes.

After all, we wouldn’t want to make the same mistake twice, would we?! Our mistakes are vital for our continuous improvement. They are great learning tools, because they provide us with a perfect picture of our actual reality, rather than what our reality should theoretically be. This is why looking at our mistakes and asking what we have learned from them, what we should stop doing and what we should start doing differently is a good and brave way to learn. Cooking can be a good example for this. Is a recipe perfect the first time we try it? Or do we need to retry and refine it several times until we find just the right ingredients for our palette, until we discover the “right mix” for us? 

4. Sometimes we’ll make small, controlled experiments, so we can test how reality responds to the change we want to make. 

But this will be a small experiment, so if we fail we can learn, correct and try to make it better. Small mistakes which entail some preliminary probing of the reality that awaits us, are both controllable and helpful to our learning. 

5. From big mistakes – which regrettably will happen – we also ought to learn. 

We won’t punish ourselves for our past mistakes. It’s important for us to look back at the past, take from it what helped us get past difficult times and learn what not to repeat. 

6. By making mistakes we learn how to avoid some of them in the future. 

And… Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

So…Fail fast, fail often

References and further reading: Failing Better, Mike Langlois¹ 

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