is it a mistake to avoid mistakes?

mistake learning
There has been much in the news these past few days about the Australia Scotland match in the Rugby World Cup. More specifically the refereeing ‘mistake’ which awarded Australia the match winning penalty. Not so much, was it a mistake in the heat of the game, but was it a mistake for the referee to depart the pitch with such haste after the final whistle? Was it a mistake to not ‘own’ his mistake?

Now Jose Mourinho has used the analogy of only one mistake, to comment on a football referee and his own punishment for previous comments.

Mistakes are something we generally seek to avoid. Cultural, organisational and societal norms suggest that they are not good. At school we are marked and assessed on our ability to get it right, not wrong. From an early age we are encouraged to think that mistakes are in some way a failing, something on which we can be judged, something to be steered clear of.

A wise coach I learned much from, once told me a story about a telephone coaching session. She began the call with her client when suddenly something fell off the table onto the floor. She put the phone on mute to pick it up, returning quickly to the coaching call. Her client reflected where he was at. She thought and posed a question. The client responded and spoke at some length. His take on her question surprised her, but it seemed to be creating learning so she let her curiosity go. Another question followed, again the client pursued an unexpected path. The thirty minute session was drawing to a close and her client commented that this was perhaps the best session they had had. At this moment she realised the phone was still on mute. Her client hadn’t heard her questions and had in fact done all the work himself.

Mistakes can reap real rewards. Mistakes are a learning opportunity. Many of the greatest inventions and movements forward arose from mistakes, or at least were unintended consequences or discoveries.

Maybe it’s a mistake to judge the mistake?
Maybe we should embrace it?


How and when do you reflect?

What does it mean, to reflect?

Often we reflect on situations that haven’t gone well. What could we have done differently? Usually the more difficult they were, the more impact there was, the more we reflect.

We may occasionally reflect on a situation that has gone brilliantly well, or one that was a memorable, amazing experience.

Reflecting on the extremes, seems to be the norm. But what about reflecting day to day, on the normal, the middle ground? What value lies there? It’s not something we all pay attention to.

Why not?

Noticing whether you’re feeling relaxed, playful, weary at a point in the day can be useful. Noticing you were less involved than normal in that meeting. Being curious about why you sensed a little stomach churn just before that phone call. Notice how busy your mind is. Notice patterns of thought. Notice words and phrases you use regularly. Words you say to others, but also words you say to yourself in your head. Notice how you’re distracted. Notice what’s distracting you. Notice familiar patterns of thought, of behaviour. Notice when you hold back, stay quiet. Notice when you don’t.

Reflecting on how we are, in the moment, can be useful. What our body and mind is doing, is telling us, should be heard. This is information. It’s free. It’s insightful. It’s valuable.

Let’s pay more attention to reflecting.

the things we carry

the things we carry
I have a rucksack.
It’s my means of transporting my chattels around, to and from work.

You probably have something too? A handbag, a briefcase, a shoulder bag, a plastic bag, a wheelie trolley…

We carry our accoutrements of living with us. Papers, iPad, pens, lip-salve, a book or kindle maybe, phone, make-up, hand cream, wallet or purse… You’ll have your own contents.

We do this in life too. Carry the contents of our humanity.

Our loyalty, our guilt, our goals, our dreams, our expectations, our fears, our vulnerability, our shame, our hopes, our thoughts, our feelings, our hurt, our aspirations, our pain, our mistakes…

Not perhaps in our bag, or rucksack, but with us nonetheless.

And we might think they are hidden, invisible, inside us, but they are not. They are there in the system. Invisible obstacles.

For a bit like our bag, our rucksack or our wheelie trolley, on the bus, train or pavement, these invisible things we carry, knock into people. They rub against shoulders or legs, obstruct views, trip people up, cause people to take a wider path, take up human space and force other human beings to take avoiding action.

They also weigh us down, change our posture, cause us to list towards one shoulder. They twist us as we pull, with one hand, our trollied lives rumbling behind us. They engage one arm or hand, reducing our ability to engage with life ambidextrously, fully. They generate pain and discomfort from their burden.

But they’re your shoulders.

Reflect on what you carry and how you carry it.

the truth in our body

body feeling listen real
Our body has something to say. Often we don’t make ourselves available to listen. We speak over it. We take its message and translate, dismiss, interpret, label it. Or we simply ignore it. It seems we have forgotten to simply pay attention to it.

When we are wrestling with something, experiencing a change, being challenged, exploring a question or simply living, our bodies will be speaking to us.

Maybe we have a tension in our shoulders, a dry mouth, a tummy that is churning, tingling in our toes, a numbness in our legs, breathing that is shallow, a heartbeat that is racing…?

Our mind takes over. Thought swamps the sensation. Emotional labels mask the core body feeling. Distraction. Control maintained. Human system managed. This interpretation, rationalisation or control amounts to sticking our fingers in our ears and going blah blah blah to our bodies. I’m not listening. You’re not important.

Yet in one way, the physical sensation is the only thing that is real. Undeniable. My mouth is dry. My palms are sweaty.

My rationalisation of what this signifies, fabricated. Invented. Created from a myriad of past and present analyses, my brain labels the sensation with a feeling – I’m anxious. Are you? My brain then engages the thoughts about why, what I can do, what I should do, what will work, what won’t. It tells me about the patterns. “Well this is what always happens isn’t it?” it says.

What would it be like to stay with the physical sensation? To spend a few moments, with the dry mouth? Not to label it, dismiss it, rationalise it away. But just notice it. Listen to your body. It too has a voice. It speaks a truth.