Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Getting it Wrong... can be the Right Thing to Do

Think about it.  Most people do everything they can to avoid being wrong.  We put a lot of time and effort into doing what we can to prevent even the possibility of being wrong.  And... we learned this early.  In public school we learned that when it came to raising our hands to answer a question, we needed to make sure we had the 'right' answer, or we risked embarrassing ourselves in front of our classmates.  We learned that we needed to study to make those 'A' grades, or risk being embarrassed, whether with peers or parents, about the grade we did get.

Let's face it.  If we fell short of that perfect mark, we were far more likely to focus on the answers we got wrong, to question the 'why' of getting it wrong, to 'feel' bad about those answers we missed, than we were to focus on those we got right and to celebrate the number of times we were 'right' in our answers.

Think about it.  We tend to get stuck in the feeling of being right, the need to 'be' right, primarily in an effort to avoid how we feel when we realize that we're wrong.  It's not the actual 'being' wrong that carries this emotional impact though, it's our interpretation and how we respond to the realization we were wrong that creates and carries that emotion.  It's our response to 'wrongness' that does it.  Somehow we have managed to equate being wrong about something to there being something wrong with us.

However, in dialogues with some of the greatest, brightest thinkers of our times we have learned one key necessary attribute they all possessed.  Consider this the secret key to your future success, it is that important.  Each of these bright people, these successful people, were willing to get it wrong, before they got it right.  That's it.  Be willing to get it wrong, before getting it right. 

The magic in this rests in the fact though that they didn't internalize the 'wrongness'.  They separated the action from their sense of self.  The action they took was 'wrong', but it didn't make them 'wrong'.  Each time they were wrong in a choice they eliminated one possibility off of their list of possibilities.  It taught them a lesson.  Learning from the mistake, the wrong turn, helped lead them to their breakthrough moment.  To do this though, they had to be prepared to accept error, to embrace the messages that came with being wrong. 

For us to advance in our lives, to enjoy greater success, we too need to learn to accept the lessons that accompany being wrong, to embrace our 'right to be wrong', as part of the growth process, and to move closer to our desired 'right' result.  Our fear of being wrong holds us back from achieving this though.  Our fear of others thinking we're wrong, prevents us from trying.  Adopting the response of... 'Ahhh, I'm wrong today, but one step closer to being right'...  frees us to begin making choices today, rather than waiting until we are sure we are right.

Having to be 'right' before we act is debilitating.  Embracing the possibility of being wrong... liberating.  After all, making mistakes is what being human is all about... and I don't think I'm wrong about that!

(great reference on this topic, from 'wrongologist' Kathryn Schulz)

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