Making Mistakes

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something.  -Neil Gaiman

Noooo, a loud part of me screamed when I first read this quote. I am not fond of making mistakes. Mistakes are messy and painful, and I would just prefer to avoid them. Thanks, but no.

And I’m not alone. As a therapist, I sit with many people who become paralyzed by the idea of making a mistake. What if I take the job and I hate my boss? What if I just think I’m in love but this isn’t real love? What if I let myself feel hopeful about the future and something bad happens? Who has not lain awake in the dark chasing down those ‘what ifs’ that fill our heads?

I know that most of my worries are for naught. I can remember when my daughter was a toddler and lying awake worrying about how in the world I was going to get her to give up her beloved bubby (a/k/a pacifier). Why did I ever give it to her in the first place? What about her teeth? How much would we have to pay to the orthodontist? Maybe she would never give it up? As is so often the case, most decisions turn out fine or even better than we could have imagined. I can happily say that my now college-aged daughter successfully gave up her bubby many years ago and today has a devastatingly beautiful smile.

But it’s true, sometimes there’s no way to know when we’re on the cusp of walking straight into a giant hairy mistake. One of the hardest things about being alive is that we can’t know the outcome of our choices and decisions. As much as we long for a crystal ball, we just can’t foresee the future. And there is nothing we can do about that.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by our fear of making a mistake and do nothing. Simply stay where we are. At least we know how miserable our current misery is. But what if letting ourselves become paralyzed by our fear of making a mistake is the biggest mistake of all?

  • In what areas of your life are you afraid of making a mistake?
  • What mistakes could you make this year?
  • Who will support and love you when you make mistakes?