Mistakes aren’t failures: getting back out there.

We live in a perfectionist world where mistakes are made out to be failures – but life isn’t perfect, and we shouldn’t buy into the idea that we are either. Moreover, mistakes can lead to insights, creative problem-solving solutions, and an improved understanding of how we build resilience. Make mistakes your friend, and don’t think you are alone in making mistakes either.

Mistakes foster insight when you let them

Firstly, when we think about mistakes as ‘failures’ we lose sight of the fact that understanding how we made a mistake helps us see where we can improve and make different choices next time.

  1. Likewise, mistakes can help us better understand how to respond, rather than react. Responding to a situation means that we think before we do, take a broad perspective on a situation, and avoid the trap of taking everything personally. This is better for our mental health, and our workflow processes – try it. I guarantee you’ ll like it.
  2. We can gain insight into the field we work in, giving us an expertise edge and “how not to do it” which can help our clients too. Passing on the benefits of our experience is a fillip for clients, and one they appreciate.
  3. Mistakes can help us identify unhealthy patterns in our life generally, so we can reap a benefit of personal growth that doesn’t only apply to our working life. Bonus!

Mistakes that aren’t ‘failures’ improve our problem-solving skills

An interesting and often unexpected advantage of mistake-making is that we open ourselves up to creative solutions and hacks. I have learned faster ways to accomplish tasks and to remember how and when to do things far more effectively because I learned when made mistakes.

  1. Identify your mistake and the context in which it happened. Be detailed, this will help with the next step.
  2. Use the benefit of hindsight to run different scenarios. Be outrageous with your ideas – this is a thought experiment so don’t hold back. Try a big mind-map or using different coloured marking pens to help you see connections, contexts and patterns that you can either avoid or cultivate as a result of your mistake.
  3. Recognise where you can not only do things differently but more effectively because you are prepared for a big difference in approach.

Mistakes help us build resilience (and realise we aren’t alone)

In fact, if we are ‘perfect’ every time and we are unable to recognise, acknowledge and learn from our mistakes we stay frozen in our capacities and limits. This is not ideal for developing and expanding our business ideas, fostering our networks and relationships, nor for identifying new and potentially wonderful new work arenas. When we open up to seeing mistakes as an opportunity and not a failure we have unexpectedly broad horizons for development at the personal as well as the business levels.

Further, it is important to also remember that you are not alone in making mistakes. Resilience comes more easily when we can share our fears and disappointments with a trusted set of people who will support us in learning from what happened. You don’t need to tell the entire world about your mistake. A group of understanding friends and colleagues can be invaluable in picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and trying something new and hopefully better. (And, if your mistake was confiding in the wrong person, that’s an easy mistake to not make again – #happiness!)

Embrace the mistake lesson and see what happens.


Annetta Mallon works with people at end of life and after death. She has been advocating, supporting, offering grief counselling and a lot of public education for several years. Her interest in end of life grew from academic work and research, where she was teaching a good deal in the arenas of health sociology, aging, anthropology, feminism, and some art therapy practices. You can find Annetta at Gentle Death Education and Planning


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