Photo by Tyler Meuter

Oops! Drat! @#$%! Those are things you probably hear after making a mistake. In our daily lives, we make an uncountable number of mistakes of varying significance. It could be something as simple as turning the wrong way to go to class or pushing the wrong button on an elevator. Alternatively, it could be far worse like writing down the wrong due date for an assignment or incorrectly stating a fact that affects an upcoming business decision. Regardless, it’s only natural to make mistakes since, after all, we’re human.

It is easy to get discouraged by our mistakes. The feeling of regret after making a poor decision or feeling stupid after not remembering something trivial can be overwhelming.

Earlier this summer, I left the office to go out to a building to prepare for a network upgrade and I got there and realized I had forgotten things as basic as pen and paper. I had to trek back to the office, gather the things I should have brought the first time, and start my work in the building all over again. I easily wasted at least 30 minutes by forgetting those things.

This stuck with me over the next few days as I couldn’t believe I’d forget something so essential. Another time I wasn’t completely prepared for an assignment I was given. I showed up when it was time to execute and my plan that I thought was so excellently prepared turned out to be great in theory but quite poor in execution. Those mistakes combined to be a heavy weight on my shoulders of how things could have gone much better than they did.

Recently I’ve come to realize how valuable those mistakes really were. By making mistakes, there is still room to grow and improve. In the case of the assignment mentioned earlier, I was given the opportunity to test out some new skills and lead the project with the assistance of my more experienced coworkers.

When the team and I were implementing my plan, we began to realize that it wasn’t going to go as well as I had thought it would. While working through the issues, my coworkers were giving me suggestions on changes that could make the process easier. I learned so much in the few hours working with my team than I did in the entire planning stage. Looking back, I could have utilized my coworkers more in planning, and is something I’ll do in the future.

You could lament over mistakes like these and just give up when it gets overbearing, but that doesn’t help anyone. Don’t let mistakes define you use them to grow. Most mistakes aren’t intentional, and any reasonable human in a similar position could have made the same ones you did. Look back on your mistakes, but in a positive light. It’s an opportunity to learn something new, and share in our human nature with our more experienced friends, coworkers, teammates and others. Forgetting sticky notes at the office is not the end of the world.