Nobody likes to admit it when they’ve made a mistake — especially when it’s a significant one. People who identify themselves as perfectionists may even find that they’re completely paralyzed by fear of making a mistake before they even try to take action on something.
Mistakes, however, really just exist in our minds as perceptions. No matter how hard we try, completely riding our lives of mistakes can’t be done by trying to make ourselves perfect, or by trying to gain control over everything. The only way to truly eliminate mistakes is by changing how we perceive them.
The word “mistake” is defined as “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.” No wonder we all hate making them! But have you ever noticed how some of the happiest and most successful people are the ones who really aren’t fazed by making mistakes?
It all comes down to a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset, which is a helpful model in psychology developed by Stanford professor Carol Dweck that we can use to look at how people think. People with fixed mindsets believe that they were simply born with the abilities, talents, and level of intelligence that they currently have, and that there’s no real hope in changing them. People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, believe that their abilities, talents, and intelligence can be developed and improved upon by putting in the time and effort.
When you adopt a growth mindset, mistakes essentially fade away and turn into stepping stones as they become an essential part of the developmental learning process. When you seek growth, every challenge you learn to overcome serves as something that you can use to improve yourself.
Why do we laugh? There’s no easy answer to that question, but in general, we can assume that laughter is a form of communication that helps us relieve tension and spark positive feelings in both ourselves and in other people.
Of course, a mistake may not seem funny at all in the moment or soon afterward, and that’s okay. But learning to look at every mistake eventually at some point with a great sense of humor helps free you from the emotional distress that comes with dwelling on it and transforms it into something completely different.
Despite what your ego may lead you to believe, laughing about your own embarrassments and disappointments doesn’t show that you’re weak at all. In fact, it shows the very opposite. If you can learn to laugh at your own mistakes, other people (and more importantly, you) will see that you’re not trying to hide or avoid the messy, imperfect reality of living life.
Mistakes are really just a reflection of our desire for control. We often think we’re in control of life, but we’re not. When things don’t go the way we expect them to go, we call them mistakes, and then of course we have a hard time accepting our inability to effectively control reality.
Letting go of any anger, resentment, shame or guilt helps make room in your mind so you can work on consciously activating your compassionate side. If laughter doesn’t fully dissolve what you perceive to be a mistake, then whole-hearted compassion and forgiveness certainly will help finish it off.
All of these tips — seeking growth, learning to laugh, and being able to forgive — are all acts of surrender to the vulnerable nature of living a human life. And when you find that you’re able to surrender, you’re also able to discover that there really are no so-called “mistakes” the way we typically tend to perceive them.