The other day I sent an invoice to a client. Well, I thought I had... until I received a PayPal email notifying me that I, in fact, had paid my client $1,000.
It was a total palm-to-forehead moment. I was in a rush that morning, so I made this embarrassing error without even realizing it until much later.
Was this great? Nope. So why are mistakes great, exactly?
Because in life, you're either winning (which is nice), or you're learning (which is less nice, but can be better for you in the long run). Because success never actually teaches you anything, does it? Mistakes, however, are worth it for plenty of reasons:
1. They are our best teachers.
Think about what you’ve learned in life so far. My lessons have stemmed from what could be considered a few pretty big mistakes. Getting married after eight months of knowing someone (and divorced two years later). Getting fired for not doing my job properly. Trusting someone too quickly who screwed me over.
For me, it was the wrong man. The wrong job. The wrong friend. My now-husband, my thriving business, and my trusty crew of girls would not exist without my prior eff-ups. Plus I value everything in my life 100 times more now than if everything would have landed perfectly in my lap.
Think: What have been your steepest learning curves? I bet a few sizeable mistakes are in the mix.
2. They mean action.
However you slice it, mistakes mean you are doing something. They are an example of forward motion, no matter what. If you are sitting on the couch, eating Doritos, you probably won’t be worried about the mistakes you are making. Until one day you get old and realize all of your inaction and paralysis is worse than the mistakes you could have made as life passed you by. Don’t you want to be in arena—and not on the sidelines—during your one precious lifetime? Mistakes are proof you are alive. And living. No mistakes = you are in your comfort zone (and not in a good way).
3. They make you smarter.
It's science! According to a journal article published in the Association for Psychological Science, “For individuals with a growth mind-set, who believe intelligence develops through effort, mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn and improve. For individuals with a fixed mind-set, who believe intelligence is a stable characteristic, mistakes indicate lack of ability.”
With a growth mind-set, which is possessed by most high achievers, mistakes are your biggest chance at getting better and smarter.
4. They are (largely) reversible.
Mistakes are actually much less risky that you think. And we are not as vulnerable as we perceive ourselves to be. Hitting reply all by accident or having an uncomfortable confrontation that you regret can often be fixed with an honest talk and/or an apology.
An unsuccessful first attempt at a side hustle can be saved with a swift pivot (and often an aha! moment). A bad purchase can often be returned or the money can be saved within another area of your budget. When you think about the worst that can happen, it’s often much less daunting than you imagine.
5. They make you interesting!
Think of your life like a biography. Will it be interesting/daring/full enough? Or will be a play-it-safe bore? I just read a book about a billionaire who, with his first start-up, was depending upon a single client payment to arrive in his bank account one morning or he would have had to fire 300 people and shut down the company. Fortunately, it arrived, but he has never been so reliant on a single source of business revenue ever since (hence his billionairedom now).
Your mistakes don’t have to be so dramatic. But will you have some juicy stories to tell in your ripe old age?
6. They create compassion.
Mistakes. We all make 'em! Next time a subordinate, friend, or client slips up, you’re much more likely be kinder as a result of experiencing your own blunders. Because at the end of it all, we’re human. We’re just doing our best.
It’s undeniable that mistakes reveal new insights and aha! moments that success can never match. So let yourself off the hook. I do. My PayPal error was no big deal. I canceled the payment. I now save all of my invoicing for a time when I’m undistracted and focused. No one was hurt. I looked a little foolish, but I use almost every public mistake as an opportunity to say, “In business, as in life, mistakes happen! No biggie. Just keep going.”
Susie Moore is Greatist's life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!