Every mistake a learning opportunity

According to Napoleon Hill, "One of the tricks of opportunity, (is that) it has a sly habit of slipping in by the back door, and often it comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat. Perhaps this is why so many fail to recognize opportunity."

What is interesting is that small children have no issue seeing the opportunities hidden in temporary defeat. When a baby learns to walk, she normally falls down, gets back up and tries again until the task is learned. When learning to speak, children make numerous grammatical errors and eventually conquer the complexities of language.

article continues below

For some reason, as we get older, we begin to think that making mistakes is a sign that we are stupid and incompetent. We are embarrassed when we do not do things perfectly, and tend to stop trying. This, unfortunately, is a recipe for failure.

In teaching languages, I always try to create an atmosphere in the classroom where it is acceptable to make mistakes. I tell my students that when they are doing assignments we do not count errors because each one is an opportunity to learn. In fact, if we are not making mistakes, we are not challenging ourselves, and thus we are not learning. I then tell my students humorous stories of people who made mistakes, like the Catholic priest learning French who was asked if he had slept well. He wanted to say that his mattress was too hard, and knew that one could often make a French word by changing the pronunciation of an English word. He did not know the word for mattress, so he said, "Ma matresse est trop dure." This would translate to, "My mistress is too hard."

Needless to say, he never made that mistake again, and eventually became very fluent in French.

In her book MINDSET, Carol Dweck points out that there are two mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and ability are fixed. You are either intelligent, or you are not. You are athletic or you are not. If you experience misfortune or temporary defeat, that is the end. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see a temporary setback as a challenge and opportunity to learn and to get better. It is the type of philosophy that I am trying to teach my language students; in fact, I would argue that it is the mindset that one must have if one is going to learn another language.

Mistakes are inevitable, and each mistake is a valuable lesson.

Life is always presenting opportunities to us, but as Hill points out, they are not always obvious. If we are able to think as we did when we were little children learning to walk and to speak, we can embrace the growth mindset and see temporary defeats for what they really are, challenges for us to embrace and overcome on our way to achieving the amazing potential that exists in every one of us.

Read Related Topics

Comments

NOTE: To post a comment you must have an account with at least one of the following services: Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ You may then login using your account credentials for that service. If you do not already have an account you may register a new profile with Disqus by first clicking the "Post as" button and then the link: "Don't have one? Register a new profile".

The Prince George Citizen welcomes your opinions and comments. We do not allow personal attacks, offensive language or unsubstantiated allegations. We reserve the right to edit comments for length, style, legality and taste and reproduce them in print, electronic or otherwise. Comments that contain external links will not be permitted. For further information, please contact the editor or publisher, or see our Terms and Conditions.

comments powered by Disqus

Anti-racism rallies POLL

Do you think it's appropriate to be holding anti-racism rallies against Dr. Bonnie Henry's recommendations?

or  view results

Sign Up For Our e-Newsletter!

Popular Citizen

Lowest Gas Prices in Prince George
Prince George Gas Prices provided by GasBuddy.com