Minimum Number of Mistakes

I have a challenge for you.  Can you see your mistakes as something positive?

I’ve been working up to this challenge gradually.  We started with not beating yourself with a big stick, and moved on to turning a mistake into a chance to learn.  Now I’m pushing further, into the territory that sees mistakes as a necessary part of education.

Consider learning something new from scratch.   Something big and challenging.  It could be the Alexander Technique, but it could equally well be a new computer program, karate, knitting or anything else.  It is likely you will make quite a few mistakes along the way.  Most people do.

So how do you approach those mistakes?  Do you automatically assume there shouldn’t be any?  A common approach, and a recipe for anxiety and blame.

Or you could start by thinking that there should be mistakes.   You could take as your starting point the idea that there is a minimum number of mistakes(*) you need to make in order to learn any subject or skill; that without these mistakes you can’t really succeed, so the sooner you get on and make them, the better.

In the words of Yisrael K. Feldsott(**),
 “I make as many mistakes as it takes…”  
Wouldn’t that change your whole outlook on getting things wrong?

If this idea sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s not unique to the Alexander Technique.  If you read writers on personal success (Carol Dweck and Seth Godin to name just two), you will find this same idea popping up all over the place.  A lot of people have tried it out, and found it works.

Just think of the possibilities.  Just think how liberating this could be.  You needn’t ever be anxious or fearful of making mistakes again.  You could welcome them as necessary and important.  You could even celebrate them as a sign of progress.  Now there’s a challenge.
photo by FreeFoto.com
(*) Credit for this wonderful phrase goes to Nick Clarke.
(**) A very successful artist who trained as an Alexander teacher in the 1970s; many thanks to Franis E Angel for providing the quote.

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CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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2 comments on “Minimum Number of Mistakes
  1. I always wanted to get things right first time, and when I, inevitably, didn’t, I would get very stressed or just give up. While I’m not saying this tendency has completely gone (!), my attitude is much improved, thanks in no small measure to learning the Alexander Technique. It is a very lovely idea that we can actually embrace our mistakes as part of how we learn. Great blog!

  2. Thanks, Imogen, I’m glad you like the blog. I’ve walked away from a number of things in my past, burning up with the failure of a relatively small mistake. I do so much less now, and life is much more peaceful and satisfying! Karen

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