Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thought for the Day - Make More Mistakes

It is funny but there is a huge amount of fear involved in making mistakes. And this is the fear that must be first knocked out in schools itself. Let them make mistakes and do not ridicule and humiliate them for their mistakes. I can see Anjali worrying and agonising about her mistakes and hiding them or crying about them - and she is four years old. Somewhere in all of us, young and old, this myth has crept in that we all need to be perfect and that we may not be liked if we make mistakes. So we cover them up, we hide them and we worry about them constantly, that we may be found out, despite knowing that every single person in this world has made mistakes, every single one of them.

Funnily again, we all know that making mistakes is the only way to learn. It is the only route to success. Yet we all behave as if we were born with some secret formula where everything has to be right and that we are incapable of any wrong. How foolish is this idea that we cannot make a mistake ever. And how foolish to try and cover it up. It is a clear indicator that we will never grow.

The idea that we can make mistakes and that we can fail is what we must learn to accept first. This is the only way of original thought. This is the starting point to the route to excellence. This is how we can unlock our potential. If we can look at ourselves and give ourselves the freedom to make mistakes and to fail, we'll be in a much better place. We grow with each mistake if we look at it with the right attitude - the attitude of growth.

There could be a cry against this thought. "Then people will be more careless if we encourage mistakes!"  I seriously doubt that. People have an inherent desire to better themselves if we give them the space. If we do not pounce on their mistakes and humiliate them, they will find the space to improve, to correct and to produce original work. It is this space that is required, of tolerance and understanding, not just among children but in society as well. A well memorised and correct answer is not half as good as a creative and wrong answer. It is for us to wonder at why the mistake has been committed, the thought process behind the wrong, which could lead to some very original thinking. To real progress.

Clearly the more mistakes we make the greater are our chances of growing. A mistake a day would indicate that one is trying out something new at least. In schools and colleges and in families and societies there seems to be a stupid notion about failures and mistakes that must be knocked out immediately. I'd encourage mistakes as much or even more than a correct answer (remember that wonderful scene in the movie 'Stanley ka dabba' where the science teacher admonishes Stanley's creative science project). There is no question of succeeding in life if we are afraid to make mistakes, to own up our mistakes and our ignorance. Whatever the age, whatever the circumstance in life we must be ready to accept our limitations. And if our schools and colleges, our families and societies, give permission to their young and old to make mistakes and learn from them, we'd all be in a better place.

Today I feel that if there is one thing I'd like to tell Anjali, it is to try more new things, make more  mistakes and never let that stop her from trying something new ever. That there is really no such thing as a mistake. It is always a process of trying out something new.


Vetirmagal said...

A simple idea, but so profound. Making mistakes, shadowed us for decades. and we did not try.
It took so much effort to get out that block.

Harimohan said...

Dear Vetrimagal,
It is a part of our conditioning, of our saying 'no' to almost everything children do, which in turn reflects only our fears and limitations. It is also often mistaken as love. But all this stuff does impede the child's capacity to risk, to explore and make mistakes. Worth catching ourselves and our negative responses to children and their enterprise to know what really goes on. And then it does take much effort to come out of the block like you said.