A Mistake a Day Keeps Rigidity at Bay

| November 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

Humankind has been striving to get better, faster, smarter for probably as long as it has existed. This character trait is to a big part the reason that we enjoy the life standards that we have today. Computers sped up that self-improvement process even more. Today we can considerably more work done than only a few years ago, when copy machines, personal computers and the internet were not part of a usual work day and life.

Whereas this is all great, a certain trend became apparent with these developments. Today we have little to no room for mistakes, big or even small. Many of us have the tendency to beat ourselves up over little mishaps, honest mistakes or just absent minded moves. We like it when everything is under our control, well planned, and goes without deviations. We create the life after the model of a computer. It might work well for a while to exactly know every move in advance and to self-correct instantly in order to prevent mistakes and create an efficient and predictable outcome. However, after a while, our human nature will become suffocated, our creativity stifled and our sense of curiosity starved, as well as our energies drained.

Productivity and flawlessness is not what allows us to experience a happy life. It might be soothing to “ace” every task and show no room for vulnerability or a sub-par performance. But we are not machines, and therefore need not strive for perfect functioning and output.

An exercise I suggest to my clients who suffer from stifling “perfectionism” is to consciously make one mistake a day. These daily mistakes can be little things, like missing the usual exit on the highway and having to find a different way to the store or to work. It could be not wearing a perfectly put together outfit, but adding an odd piece, or leaving an ingredient out of a dish. Different things qualify as a mistake for different people. As long as no one´s safety is jeopardized, or not big losses result from it, it is a candidate for this exercise.

Many things can happen after that: A feeling of freedom often sets in, liberation from boring or burdening routines. A sense of being alive and deeply human replaces a need to “keep it all together” and carrying the weight of the world on the shoulders. Negative self-talk can be replaced in this planned mistake-making setting, with kindness towards ourselves. Reasons for striving for being perfect might show up like ghosts from the past, offering themselves to disappear. Our own expectations of others might soften and make relationships work more smoothly.

This is an essential exercise that can be easily done and has tremendous rewards. It is not always easy. Often the mere thought of making a mistake, however minor and even on purpose, can bring up big anxiety, refusal, writing it off as silly. All of that is just fine. No matter what comes up, I encourage everyone to give it a try, see what it does for you, and then write it off, or keep it as a life quality enhancing exercise and return to it occasionally. And, after all, it is our idiosyncrasies and foibles that make us human, unique and loveable. More on this and other life quality enhancing topics at: www.HealthwithTaste.blogspot.com.

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Certified Life Coach