I was scheduled to fly to Dublin, Ireland a few weeks ago for a speaking engagement and when I got to the airport I realized I’d forgotten my passport at home. I felt mortified and embarrassed – and then angry when I realized I wouldn’t be able to get on my flight. After a few hours of stress and drama, I was able to get myself on another flight, which would get me to Ireland on time for my event – although it did cost me quite a bit of money and forced my wife Michelle to have to drop what she was doing and rush to the airport with my passport.
In the big scheme of things in life, it wasn’t a huge deal. However, it really upset me and caused me to reflect on how I react to mistakes – mine and other people’s. What I realized is that I don’t give myself or those close to me much permission to make mistakes. While mistakes aren’t a huge issue in my life, I actually spend and waste a lot of time worrying about making mistakes, and also find myself being unnecessarily critical of those around me when they make mistakes (both overtly and covertly).
Michelle’s kind, accommodating, and empathetic response to my mistake (which ended up having a negative impact on her as well) was a great model and reminder for how I want to be when someone around me makes a mistake – helpful, loving, and compassionate. It also reminded me that having love and compassion for myself when I make a mistake, instead of judgment and criticism, is a much healthier and more positive way to deal with mistakes.
How about you? How do you relate to yourself and others when mistakes are made? While it often depends on the nature of the mistake (some are bigger than others, of course), many of us tend to be hyper-critical with ourselves and those around us when it comes to errors. And the stress, criticism, and negativity we associate with mistakes can actually cause unnecessary harm, fear, and anguish – in essence, making a difficult situation even worse.
What if we had more freedom to make mistakes and gave the people around us permission to mess things up as well? It’s not that we’d start rooting for or expecting things to go wrong, we’d simply have more compassion and understanding when they did (which at some level is inevitable in life and business).
By giving ourselves and others permission to make mistakes, we actually create an environment within our own being and within our key relationships and teams, that is conducive to trust, connection, risk-taking, forgiveness, creativity, and genuine success.
While it can seem a little risky, and even counter-intuitive, allowing more freedom for mistakes to be made, ironically creates the conditions for less errors to occur, and more fun and productivity to take place.