Many years ago, a speaker challenged the audience with the question, “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?” It garnered a lot of reaction from the audience with possibilities being discussed among the conference attendees. People talked about climbing mountains that they “wished” they could do today, fly airplanes that they “wouldn’t” do without knowing they could fail, open businesses, and take a number of “risks” that they would never think to do today. Much of the conversation revolved around safety, both their own physical safety and the safety of their livelihood for their family.
Yesterday this notion was again shared but a bit differently to not only free your mind to think big, but to also forgive yourself for things that came before.
You Cannot Make a Mistake
As the entire group sat and saw this on the screen, it was hard to fathom. Of course you can make a mistake, we make them all of the time, don’t we? The group began to discuss what the word mistake meant to each person. Each of the examples was about looking back and seeing the mistake, after the fact. The leader of the discussion then shared this pearl:
“You made the best decision with the information and knowledge that you had at the moment”
Think about that statement. Let that sink in a bit. Imagine a life where that was your go to principle. No regrets. No “should have”, “could have” or “wish I had.” Just the thought that the best decision was made at that point in time with the information and knowledge that was had.
As this idea sunk in and I thought about it, I realized that this was really liberating for me. I have lived my life with so much regret, so much “shoulds” and “coulds”, how would it look without these words and these thoughts? How would I feel if I couldn’t make a mistake?
It doesn’t mean that you didn’t make a bad decision, but you made the best one with the information you had at that moment. You get to then get the learning, and maybe, eventually, the gift. Imagine a workplace where there were no mistakes, only decisions that might need to be changed and learnings as to why. Imagine how free each employee would feel and how many intelligent risks could be taken. This becomes the beginning of real innovation, where there are no mistakes just learnings to make something better.
As I thought about this I was reminded of a comment my ex-husband once made to me, “you decide you can’t do something before you even try!” With this as a principle to live by, perhaps the fear of failure would no longer hold me back. Perhaps I would take more risks in both my business, my life and certainly in love. I play it safe a lot because I’m afraid to make a mistake. In fact I realized recently that I say “I’m sorry” way too much and not for all of the right reasons. I am so afraid of hurting people and afraid of not being liked and accepted that I apologize for everything, every single “mistake” I think I made.
What if I lived by this principle, what would I do differently? I would take more risks, I would not be afraid of what people thought of my decision or of me. I would no longer be held back by the sense that I need to be perfect, I am not allowed to make a mistake. Instead I would understand that I made the best decision with the information and knowledge I had at that moment and I would gain the learning to apply next time.
Freedom!! That is what that sounds like to me.
What would you do if you realized that You could not make a mistake? How free would you feel?