When I was in college, I remember reading a quote in a magazine that stated “If we’re not making at least three mistakes each week, we’re not trying enough new things.” As a recovering perfectionist, this was a challenging statement. (If you walked into my kitchen at this very moment, you’d congratulate me on having achieved my goal of overcoming perfectionism! But that’s another story!)
Allowing ourselves to actively make mistakes means we have to step out in faith in ourselves and our abilities and take the risk of doing something wrong. Something incorrect. Something we didn’t intend to do. And then the question is: Can I handle this?
If our answer is “No! I can’t make mistakes and I don’t make mistakes!” we will likely live a much smaller, much more contained and constrained life. But if we allow ourselves to stretch beyond where we have gone before, not quite sure of the outcome of our endeavor, yes, we may feel fear or anxiety, but we may also feel the rush of accomplishment. And that rush of accomplishment can serve as the diving board for our next adventure into the unknown, strengthening our self-confidence and our resiliency.
Last week, I attended a two-day conference for my work in a northern suburb of my large metropolitan area. Initially, I intended to return home after the first day and drive back to the conference in the morning. But as I thought about that, I realized that would be an enormous time-waster, as well dangerous to drive both ways, both days in terrible traffic. So instead, I called the hotel that was hosting the conference and made reservations to stay overnight. I also called an lifelong girlfriend and made arrangements to meet her for dinner the evening of the first day of the conference.
I felt so good as I packed my bag, so confident, and so proud of myself. I arrived for the first day of the conference, I relaxed and learned so much. But when the coursework for the day concluded, I became very nervous. It felt so awful not to be going home for the evening to have dinner with my husband. I called him, tamping down my fear of the unknown. I had to drive to meet my friend in an area that was completely unfamiliar to me. Why did I do this? I asked myself! This was the worst decision I could have made! It took everything in me not to turn my car toward home, and instead head into the unknown of the evening.
I did stick with my plans to stay overnight. I had packed my workout clothes and I found the fitness center at the hotel and walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes before going to get ready for dinner with my friend. We did meet and it was wonderful to see her! We laughed, we cried, we reminisced, and we cherished our time together. When we left, she for home and me for the hotel, I was so proud of myself for sticking with my plans and not going home. It felt uncomfortable, but I managed those feelings and did not give into them. It was then that the quote from college came back to me and I realized the conference held several new things for me.
Did I make mistakes that night? Of course! But my GPS saved me and I navigated my journey, even though there were a few wrong turns, with greater confidence and belief in myself. I stood up to the fear of the unknown, which allowed me to overcome my doubts and gain self-confidence in my abilities to handle the next new adventure I would try.
Kate is a licensed marriage and family therapist at Christian Heart Counseling in Stillwater, Minn. She has a master’s degree in theology, a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and is completing coursework for a doctorate in educational leadership.