Do you realise the miracle of the mistake?

by | Jun 24, 2024 | Achieve Goals, Change management, Personal Development

Talking about the “miracle of the mistake” is one of my favourite topics. I think it is because – as a recovering perfectionist – I found making mistakes incredibly painful, especially in my youth. I was so mistake averse that I would rather not do something if I thought I couldn’t excel at it. Sadly, I robbed myself of so many opportunities to learn, grow and try new things. I also put huge amounts of pressure on myself to perform at just about unrealistic standards. If I achieved 95% in an exam, I went looking for how I managed to lose 5%. I am grateful that I now see things differently and know that mistakes really can be miracles and offer up invaluable learning opportunities.

We need to take up Thomas Edison’s viewpoint when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Without his ‘can do, no such thing as failure’ attitude, who knows how much longer it would have taken to create the lightbulb. And he definitely wouldn’t have gone down in history as the inventor. Our disruptive, volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and diverse (D-VUCAD) world requires creativity, innovation, adaptability and the ability to fail fast, learn and advance ourselves and our skills and Key Steps to…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

How do you reframe mistakes as miracles?

  1. Be curious and constructive. Approach mistakes with curiosity rather than judgment. Investigate what went wrong and why and consider how you might approach a similar situation differently in the future. Use positive language when discussing mistakes. Instead of saying “I failed,” say “I discovered something that didn’t work.”
  2. Practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself when you make mistakes. Avoid harsh self-criticism and instead treat yourself with the same understanding and forgiveness you would offer a friend. This ability comes from having an inner ‘champion’ rather than an inner critic. Being excessively hard on self and highly critical is demotivational. It causes us to lose confidence and potentially make even more mistakes. So, to be strong and successful, admit your mistakes, get the lesson and move forward more intelligently.
  3. Encourage a growth mindset. Foster a growth mindset in yourself and others by celebrating effort and learning rather than just success. Highlight the value of perseverance and resilience. Emphasise personal and professional growth and progress over perfection. Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process and can lead to significant improvements.
  4. Create a safe environment. In teams organisations or families, create an environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning. Acknowledge and celebrate the progress made because of learning from mistakes. This reinforces the positive aspects of the experience and encourages continued growth. Encourage open discussions about what went wrong and how to improve. After identifying the lessons learned from a mistake, create an action plan to apply those lessons. This helps turn insights into tangible improvements.
  5. Share your stories and normalise admitting mistakes. Share your own experiences of learning from mistakes with others. This can inspire them to adopt a similar approach and shows that everyone, regardless of their level of success, makes mistakes and learn from them. In fact, highly successful people have often made more mistakes than less successful ones. The difference is that they quickly admit them, get curious and don’t take themselves too seriously but take the learning seriously. They are not afraid to be vulnerable – or maybe they were but they did it anyway and realised that it builds strength, resilience and success.

By adopting these strategies, you can transform mistakes into valuable opportunities for growth and development, both for yourself and those you lead and take Key Steps to…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’




NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free bi-weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, EQ Expert, Founder and CEO

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’