With the right mindset, mistakes fuel learning.
Liggy Webb isn’t the first person to say that, but her article “A Positive Approach to Modern Living” has four powerful questions to help people acknowledge mistakes and move on:
• What was the mistake?
• Why did it happen?
• How could I have prevented it?
• What will I do better next time?
Asking these questions can transform an error from a dead-end disaster into an opportunity for growth.
One reason these questions are so powerful is that forgiveness is built-in. No time is wasted on recriminations like How could I have been so stupid? or Will I ever learn? The first question accepts that our effort fell short. The last question recognizes our intent to do better. Failure may still sting, but this approach makes it possible to shift our focus from what we messed up to what we can learn.
By adopting this mindset, writers can make revision more productive. The first step is to accept that drafts, by their very nature, fall short of our best intentions. Knowing that writing is a process of discovery, we can acknowledge that a draft is only a first attempt. We don’t need to berate ourselves for any gap between the draft and our intent; we have only to narrow the distance. To do this, we ask questions to identify the gap and explore its possibilities: What is working in this draft? Where does it fall short? How can I shape it to better fit my intention and my reader’s needs?
This nonjudgmental approach frees us to accept the imperfections in our draft. By accepting them, we can move past them to make our next draft closer to our best.