Finding Joy Through Perceived Mistakes

The experience of making mistakes is a part of life. How we relate to these “mistakes” or perceived failures is what matters most.

When my nearly 7 year old daughter had the chance to get her ears pierced at the same time as her older sister, we decided to let her go for it. There was so much excitement in it for her, and the adrenaline of being a “big” girl in this way superseded any fear of the pain in the moment. It was only later that the pain and fear emerged – when the time came to change the earrings. It was then that she felt the sting of the first earring coming out, and she quickly retreated and screamed. This erupted into tears and saying repeatedly, “I made a mistake! I wish I never pierced my ears!!” With lots of ice to numb the earlobes (and admittedly the reward of an ice cream cone if she did it!), we eventually worked up to getting the new earrings in, and little by little day by day we worked on changing them out and helping her ears to heal. In the end, she was able to stick with it and reach the point of enjoying her earrings. She learned that she could handle the discomfort, that it was temporary, and that she was enjoying her earrings. If she had avoided this process and viewed this as a mistake she regretted, she would have missed out on a lot of helpful learning and fun with her new earrings.

Whether we fear the possibility of making a mistake or have trouble handling real or perceived mistakes, we tend to overestimate how bad our “mistakes” are and underestimate our ability to handle them. We must remember that anxiety tricks us in two major ways – it leads us to overestimate how bad situations are and underestimate our ability to cope. In reality, it is through allowing mistakes, taking some risks, and being open to the feelings of discomfort and vulnerability that greater joy and freedom can enter our lives.

I find the following stories to be inspirational when it comes to how we think about “mistakes,” failure, and taking risks – hope you will enjoy them, too!

Thomas Edison’s 2,998 Mistakes

Spanx CEO on Failure

Madison Whiteneck