Thomas Edison, when he revealed to the world the process by which he had created the heavy duty incandescent light bulb, after much trial and error, said: “It was not a thousand failed attempts, it was an invention of a thousand steps.” What Edison’s words teach us is very significant: we can stumble many times, make many mistakes, but the important thing is always to learn.
Between 1878 and 1880 Edison worked on at least 300 theories in order to develop the efficient incandescent light bulb, demonstrating the importance of perseverance and the willingness not to give up early, as well as the willingness to get up after stumbling.
“Why repeat old mistakes, with so many new mistakes to make?”
Learn to stumble
Making mistakes is very human, but what each mistake should teach us is to get up and learn from what happened. It is useless to lament or seek explanations from other people, when what is really effective is to reflect and learn the lesson. From a young age they teach us that the best are those who do not make mistakes and hide from us that in order to have the performance they have now, they have committed countless numbers along the way, one after another.
In 2011 a study was published in the journal Psychology and Aging that argued that as we age our brain learns better from mistakes than from successes. In this study, the results of learning by trial error were compared with those of learning without errors in memory exercises with groups of adults between 20 and 70 years old.
Two learning methods were applied. One that involved passive learning in which participants were given a category like “flower” and a related word like “rose” and another method that consisted of trial and error learning: in which a category is owed, but the person had to guess the related word.
The conclusion reached in this study was that older adults remembered keywords better if they had learned them by trial and error.
This result is due to the fact that the elderly suffer a gradual decrease in memory due to age, so they can remember better if they use the trial and error method since they have to make associations that require more work for the brain.
“A man can be wrong many times, but he does not become a failure until he begins to blame others for his own mistakes.”
The shadow of perfectionism
There are people who are not capable of admitting mistakes, who are so demanding with themselves and with others that any mistake is seen as failure and defeat. The perfectionism can be a virtue to some extent, especially those tasks that are most relevant, but can be harmful if each identification of an error followed by a huge internal fight.
Avoiding perfectionism must be based on acceptance of ourselves and the idea that goals are flexible to the extent that they have to adapt to cope with a change in conditions. This does not mean that we should abandon our goals, but that it is necessary to see them realistically and learn that there are different ways to achieve them.
An important aspect to be able to accept the reality that surrounds us has to do with the celebration of the achievements. If we go from punishment to punishment, forgetting one mistake only when another occurs, we will lose everything we achieve.
Do not get attached to the stone
Every mistake is a lesson, but something that is essential to avoid is making the same mistake over and over again, that is, continually stumbling over the same stone, since it means that we are not evolving or learning. Every time we are faced with situations similar to others in the past in which we made a mistake, it is advisable to do an examination of conscience and ask ourselves:
- What were the negative consequences of the error?
- Is it worth doing the same at the risk of making the same mistake?
- Can I do something different?
The answers to these questions will not lend a valuable hand when it comes to proceeding again, but this time with more success …
“Our reward is in the effort and not in the result. Full effort is full victory.”