(#21) Coyote Says “Learn From Your Mistakes”
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ―Albert Einstein
“There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.” —Richard Bach
The most common definition of a mistake is “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong,” such as making the wrong turn when you’re trying to get somewhere. Needless to say, we all have made our share of mistakes. Sometimes they’ve been relatively small ones that didn’t carry any particular heavy consequences, such as in the above example, while others may greatly impact the course of your life. Yet no matter how small or large the perceived mistake is, as Richard Bach points out, these events are part of what shapes our life.
One of the most impactful “mistakes” I made happened when I was in my early twenties. I was working at psychiatric hospital as a psychiatric aide—which was basically a nurse’s aide—finishing my Master’s Degree in psychology. Although I enjoyed the interaction with the patients, the pay was low and I was not likely to get any raises. My then future father-in-law, the President of a large aerospace firm, offered me a job working at a manufacturing company in Chino about forty miles away. Even though I’d be starting at the bottom the pay was twice as much as I was making. I gave my notice to the head nurse at the psychiatric facility, felt sad to leave but pleased at the prospect of making much more money.
First day on the job I reported in and was grouped with about fifteen other new employees. We took a tour of the facility and quickly learned that one of the main products that was manufactured here was casings for bombs! I recall vividly the image of these shells rolling along the assembly line like good little soldiers, ready to be filled with whatever explosives were required to fulfill their destructive purpose. The country was in the midst of the ever-escalating Vietnam War and I was aghast at what I was seeing. If I worked here I would in some way be participating in a war that I knew was wrong (as if any war is right!).
I completed the day and left there totally depressed, such that I went home and crawled in bed without dinner. My future father-in-law gave me this opportunity and I blew it! How could I ever face him again? Or even my fiancée? Why did I quite a job that I loved just to make more money? So I did the best thing I knew how to do. The next morning instead of reporting to work at the factory, I completely avoided dealing with it and slept in! I was deeply depressed and felt in an impossible bind.
Later that morning I was awakened by a call from the director of nursing at the psychiatric hospital. She told me they were going to start a program for adolescents and not only wanted me involved but was prepared to raise my pay! I eagerly told her yes, confessed to my father-in-law what had happened—though it certainly didn’t earn me any points—and reported to work at the hospital. The return eventually led me to being appointed to the Director of the Adolescent Program at a much heftier salary. So this “mistake” not only became a learning experience but also obviously was a turning point in my life, directing me back into work that I loved and continued to flower and evolve over the years.
So even though we may take an action we judge as misguided or wrong, from another perspective these experiences are an important part of shaping our character and our destiny. As Coyote stated in the guidebook that accompanies the Children’s Spirit Animal Cards:
“Okay, everyone makes mistakes. It’s bound to happen, but don’t let it upset you. The problem is when you make the same mistake over and over thinking that something will be different, but it always turns out the same. If you do something like trying to ride your bike backwards again and again and fall and hurt yourself each time, or jump down from a wall that’s too high and hurt yourself then try it again, you’re not really learning from your mistakes, especially ones that might be dangerous.
“But I also know you have to try out new things sometimes to see if you can do them, and I wouldn’t want to you to stop doing that, but if it keeps going wrong or it doesn’t happen the way you wanted or expected it to happen, then it’s time to try a different approach. Whatever mistake you’ve made recently, learn from it. Take the lesson seriously, but don’t let that stop you from trying other things. It’s important to avoid dangerous stunts, but not look for danger when it’s not there.”
Following Coyote’s words of wisdom there are some activities suggested that children could do to reinforce the message
* Recall a recent time you made a mistake and list one or two of the main lessons you learned.
* Sometimes what we call mistakes are simply learning experiences, so look at those in this way without judging yourself.
* Think of at least three things that you learned through trial and error.
As has been stated before, also in the guidebook there are some suggestions for parents as to how to work with their children. One aspect of this is some ideas for activities that will help implement the value that is espoused in the particular spirit animal card.
* Teach your child about natural consequences without shaming them or making them wrong, but instead pointing out the link between the behavior and the less than desirable results.
* Talk about mistakes you’ve made and what you learned from them.
* Whenever you make a mistake that your child sees, be sure to comment on what you learned and remember to apologize when appropriate.
This message supports the idea of both taking reasonable risks and being kind and forgiving to yourself if you think you’ve made a mistake. The wisdom is that what we call mistakes are merely opportunities to learn how to be a better human being!
“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.” —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“My heroes are the ones who survived doing it wrong, who made mistakes, but recovered from them.” —Bono
“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.” ―Paulo Coelho