Permission for Mistakes

By Sara McCord

You know the term “rookie mistake” and you know that when you’re new at something, you’ll stumble and fall a few times as you learn.

But, the permission to make mistakes in the name of learning fades away as you gain more experience. You move into the category where you’re supposed to “know better.”

And while yes, getting it right is always a good goal; there are four mistakes you’re allowed to make no matter how much experience you have.mistakes

1. Caring Too Much

You know it’s important to make time for your life outside the office. And ideally, as you grow in your career, you’ll get better at achieving work-life balance (or integration).

But, you might hit a moment in your career when you can’t leave at 5 PM or really “leave work at work” at all. Your time—and thoughts—are consumed by your job.

Maybe it’s helping you cope with a tough time. Or maybe putting in those extra hours is what’s needed to bring your company—or your career trajectory—to the next level. For whatever reason, you’ve consciously chosen to make work the #1 priority in your life.

Back-burnering the rest of your life isn’t ideal; and without a doubt, it isn’t sustainable, either. But it’s not always the “wrong” thing to do. If there’s a clear finish line—and a clear payoff—then pouring yourself into your work may be a mistake worth making (even if you know better).

2. Trying Something Bold (and Failing)

With experience comes a sense of your strengths and weaknesses. You have a pretty good idea of how you work best and how to manage what’s on your plate so you can be successful.

But if you keep following the same, proven formula, you could end up trapped in your comfort zone.

Growth is uncomfortable, and challenging yourself means you may make a mistake—and even fail; but you’ll also never know just what you achieve unless you push yourself.

So, the next time you’re about to do something the way you’ve always done it consider how you might approach it differently. You don’t have to change every routine and build in inefficiencies for the sake of saying you tried something new, but do encourage yourself to take a risk.

3. Blowing Off Your Five-Year Plan

Five-year plans can be really clarifying. In fact, picturing where you’d like to be in five years can help you if you’re not exactly sure what to do next in your career.

And while it may seem like a mistake to change course (or, careers) mid-stream, sometimes, it’s the very best thing for you.

Maybe it took you some time to realize you didn’t just need a new job, but you’d actually like to change industries. Or, maybe you’ve been putting off launching a side gig, or even going on sabbatical. It could be that taking steps toward your new goal means you’ll miss the mark on your earlier ones.

That’s OK. It may take you longer to achieve your new definition of success, but you know you’ll be happier when you get there.

4. Putting Your Faith in Others

Especially if you’ve been burned by a teammate who didn’t pull their weight, it can seem like a mistake to hand over the reins ever again. Maybe you’re gun-shy about delegating after things weren’t done to specifications. Or maybe you credit your ascent to going it alone, or you just thrive on working independently.

In any of these scenarios, depending on others can feels more like a horrible idea than a leap of faith. After all, you can’t control what might happen with a project you don’t wholly own.

But, as a reminder, that’s actually a good thing. People think and work differently, but that’s a benefit (hence the term “strength in numbers”).

The fact that a project won’t completely stall because you need a sick day is a good thing. Being able to step away from your computer (ever) is a good thing. Learning from others and following someone else’s good ideas—and even, on occasion, following a less-efficient idea and see that the department doesn’t crumble to the ground—these are all good things.

As humans, we’re bound to make mistakes. And while trying to avoid them is a good goal, a better one is to stop viewing all mistakes as a complete failure, and vow to learn from them instead.

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