How do you deal with mistakes you’ve made? Do you endlessly beat yourself up about them? Or do you even believe that there is such a thing as a ‘mistake’?
I read this story some time ago and I think it’s really worth sharing. It’s the kind that makes you wonder what your life might be like if you’d been given a gift like this:
One of the best stories I’ve ever heard about “spilt milk” and the lessons of making a mess comes from a famous research scientist who made several very important medical breakthroughs. A newspaper reporter once asked him why he thought he was able to be so much more creative than the average person. What set him so far apart from others?
He responded that, in his opinion, it all came from an experience with his mother, which occurred when he was about two years old. He had been trying to remove a bottle of milk from the refrigerator, when he lost his grip on the slippery bottle and it fell, spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor–a veritable sea of milk! (Thankfully, no glass shattered, but the milk kept flowing out like a river.)
When his mother came into the kitchen, instead of yelling at him, giving him a lecture, or punishing him, she said, “Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has already been done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?”
Indeed, he did. After a few minutes his mother said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up, and restore everything to its proper order. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a sponge, a towel or a mop. What do you prefer?” He chose the sponge and together they cleaned up the spilled milk.
His mother then said, “You know what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the back yard and fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.” The little boy learned that if he grasped the bottle at the top near the lip with both hands, he could carry it without dropping it. What a wonderful lesson!
This renowned scientist then remarked that it was at that moment he knew he didn’t need to be afraid to make mistakes. Instead he learned that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new, which is, after all, what scientific experiments are all about. They are simply that–just experiments to see what happens. Even if the experiment “doesn’t work,” we usually learn something valuable from it. (Source: Jack Canfield)
Wow! I love the lessons that shine through:
1) Accidents and ‘mistakes’ happen. It’s rarely the end of the world, and we can often make the best of them if we shift perspective. We might even be able to enjoy them and be present with whatever mess we’ve created if we can release some of the judgement in that moment.
2) We need to clean up our messes, period. It’s not for someone else to do. Own it, deal with it, and if you’re very lucky, maybe someone will help you.
3) Stay open to the learning. There’s almost always something there that will help you to grow or see things differently. It may be that you need to do something in a new way, to slow down, or to simply be more mindful. Tune in to information coming through the experience.
What if you could let go of that inner voice that beats you up and judges you when you make a mistake? What if you could embrace it this way and know that it’s just another experiment that maybe didn’t work the way you thought it would? I highly recommend tapping on this if it’s a big issue for you. I don’t know about you, but just the thought of experiencing ‘mistakes’ this way makes me feel a whole lot lighter!
– Stephanie Wood