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Mistakes are Just Data: Look for the Lessons

Elizabeta Dushechkina/Unsplash

I had spent a long, few days at my husband's pharmacy, helping with the store closing clearance sale, making endless trips to the dumpster, and vacuuming up more dust bunnies than I could count.

I was exhausted, mentally and emotionally spent, and not looking forward to the Easter brunch that we were hosting at our home the next morning for 14 people.

Our daughter met me at the door after I pulled my car into the garage. "Mom, something happened and you're not going to be happy."

She took me into our dining room where our dining room table -- the table where 14 people were to sit the next morning for brunch -- was literally bent in half.

She explained that she was trying to help us by getting the house ready for brunch. She went to put the leaf in the table and couldn't get it back together so she laid on it to try to pull the two pieces together when the metal slides bent and folded the table in two.

I dropped my bags and stared in disbelief. She was expecting me to get upset, but quite honestly, I didn't have it in me.

"What did you learn?" I asked her.

"Don't lay on the table when it's apart like that," she replied. We both stared at the table in its sad, sad state.

I know she'll never repeat that mistake again.

Mistakes are Just Data

We've been conditioned to believe that making mistakes is a bad thing. A lot of us live our lives afraid of mistakes and this limits our possibilities. We are afraid to try things, afraid to take chances, and afraid to do something wrong.

With the right mindset, mistakes have a great potential to be data. They can teach us a lot if we look for the lessons. They show us what didn't work and what not to do again.

When we look for the lessons in our mistakes we:

Remove the Negative Emotions: Mistakes often come with a boatload of shame, guilt, and embarrassment. Looking at them objectively for what we can learn neutralizes the emotions and is so much better for our mental health and self-esteem.

Develop Our Growth Mindset: Making mistakes and learning from them shows us that growth is always possible. Avoiding taking action because we fear mistakes keeps us in a fixed mindset.

Promote Self-Accountability: When you aren't worried about a negative fallout from a mistake, you are more likely to take ownership than avoid responsibility. This increases your self-efficacy and puts you in the driver's seat of your growth.

Grow our Creativity: When we aren't afraid of making mistakes, we'll try new things to see what happens. This could lead to new innovation and improvements in 'how we've always done things.'

My daughter certainly got creative in trying to put our dining room table together and she learned an important lesson of what not to do again. (Quite honestly, this was probably a better lesson than anything she would have learned if I told her not to do that.)

Thankfully, our Easter brunch was saved. Our daughter got on the phone with a handy friend who came over with his drill and some metal bars to jerry-rig the table to make it usable until the metal sliders could be replaced.

So the next time you make a mistake or don't get the result you're hoping for, ask yourself what you learned and use it as data to grow.

Want more tips to fly to help you become a goal-GETTER? Listen to The Flight School Podcast here.

Jen Laffin wearing a brightly flowered dress, glasses, smiling at the camera

Jen Laffin is an Accountability & Success Mentor for those who want to become people who reach big goals, a master teacher, and host of The Flight School Podcast, She helps goal-SETTERS become goal-GETTERS. To learn more, visit, or find Jen on Linkedin.


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