MAY 14, 2013

Learning lessons from mistakes

Mistakes happen. This is how I have lived my life since becoming an adult, and I have weathered my fair share of mistakes and learned from all of them. However, as a student I have difficulty letting go of any mistakes no matter how small or insignificant the error actually is. I am hyper-focused on earning good grades, as many students are, and sometimes the smallest error becomes an insurmountable mistake.

Case in point: I was working on an assignment, and could not arrive at the correct answer no matter what method I tried to use. After giving up, I discovered that I had miscalculated one crucial number. I was irrationally upset by this, but after a while I realized that this insignificant error had reminded me of a lesson learned a long time ago: always read and re-read the question and check all of your numbers (or sentence structure, spelling, grammar, and so on). I was temporarily blinded by my single-minded goal of getting the final answer correct that I couldn’t see that it was a simple calculation at the beginning which was causing the problem. All I needed to realize my mistake and learn from it was change my perspective, and look at the entire problem as a whole instead of focusing on the final answer.

There are a number of ways that mistakes can be avoided. For my assignment, I could have spent more time thoroughly reading the chapter. I could have started on it earlier in the day so that I wasn’t working on it late at night on the day it was due.  Had I started earlier and gotten stuck on this part of the assignment, I would have had the time to contact my instructor with a question.

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This is what happens when I get frustrated with an assignment.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes this is all a matter of perspective – what seems perfect to one person can be viewed as a crucial error by another. The true difference lies in what we do with what we learn. As a student, as a parent, as a professional, take what you learn and turn the mistake into a positive. Change how you view the events in your life, and choose to learn from it when you do stumble.

As for me, I am going to work on my time management skills and try to stop obsessing over insignificant events. As the popular saying goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”


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