No matter what you choose to do, one thing is for certain. You are probably going to make mistakes along the way. Making the mistakes is not the problem. Making them is human.
Refusing to learn from your mistakes is a problem. Learning is human also.
Fear is a significant reason why many people do not aspire, plan for, take action, or see through to the finish the ideas or opportunities that could help them find a greater level of satisfaction and achievement in their lives. If in making mistakes, we are faced with the opportunity to learn, then to consciously dismiss that opportunity can be seen as giving in to the fear that keeps you from taking another step towards greater satisfaction and achievement.
In other words, fear can prevent us from learning. Fear can prevent us from sharing. Since sharing what we know is how we create knowledge, fear can also suppress knowledge creation.
There are two basic fears that seem to come up as the major players in this discussion: fear of failure and fear of success.
Fear of Failure
For the fixed minded among us, fear of failure is an enormous burden. Once we identify self-worth mostly with the accumulation of awards, accolades, or status, the thought of change, doing something differently, or learning a new method can seem as a threat to who you are at your core. Failure is a real thing and, unfortunately, is virtually impossible to avoid because we are a flawed being. Even the best of us fall short once in a while.
Fear of Success
Fear of success is just as real a threat to identity as fear of failure. For some, the idea of living up to a new, higher expectation of success is a source of anxiety. Also, trying something new and succeeding can cause some to wonder about who they were and how the "new" fits into a life that was already established. This is not to say that success is not wanted (or that failure is desired). Rather, fear of success can call into question whether or not one wants to take on the self-imposed ideals of the newly successful version of oneself.
While we are talking about learning from mistakes, it is important to point out that we learn from our mistakes AND from others' mistakes. Personal experience is certainly authentic, but I don't need to get into an accident while texting and driving to learn that I shouldn't do it. There are enough tragic examples of the dangers of doing it for me to learn that lesson (and you too, I hope).
Mistakes keep us in check. It is nature's way of reminding us that we must continue to learn from our experiences in order to continue to be a productive, happy, developing, contributor to our community. On the other hand, few things in life are as rewarding and self-affirming as going through the process (often difficult) of becoming a more enlightened and knowledgeable citizen. This path is often littered with the lessons we learned "the hard way" or from lessons learned by others who are brave enough to share.
The more you know, the valuable you are to those around you. The more you learn, the more you can share. In a world that is placing much more value on creating knowledge through a sharing economy, those with more to share are those who are in the best position to achieve their goals and find greater satisfaction with themselves and with their place in society as a whole.
To err IS human, but so IS to learn.
This post was originally published by Dr. Troy Roddy on The Art of Education (September 11, 2012).