Are you constantly aiming for perfection at work? Well, please let that one go! When we strive to be perfect, we can become paralyzed and miss new ideas that could improve the workplace.
I got great inspiration recently for the courage to make mistakes from an article in my local paper, the Press Democrat of Sonoma County. The article described an exhibit of new work by artists in their eighties and nineties. One of them, ninety one year old June Schwarcz, explained her still fresh creativity by saying, ”I’ve always been willing to make a mess.”
For many years I put immense energy into avoiding errors and messes or defensively pretending I hadn’t made any. I finally started to understand what this artist knew intuitively, that mistakes are valuable. If we are unwilling to risk making a mistake, we also risk lessening our creative ability to solve problems.
The issue for me then becomes how best to handle and learn from the mistakes I inevitably make. Reframing my “messes” in this way helps me forgive myself, and accept feedback and suggestions more readily. I have been pleasantly surprised by positive responses when I don’t pretend or defend. As another benefit, I have become more gracious when others make mistakes.
Since my own successes with this approach, I have begun encouraging my conflict coaching clients and communication students to do the same: to appreciate and learn from their mistakes as they explore new skills.
I don’t believe June Schwarcz would still be an active artist at the age of ninety one if she wasn’t willing to experiment and to make room for many failures before her next success. Life is messy. Resolving conflict is messy. If we are as willing as she is to make a mess, we can create a better workplace and a richer, more satisfying life.