08 Jun When we speak of mistakes made, what do we mean?
When we speak of mistakes made, what do we mean?
The first pancake never turns out the best – Those who act make mistakes, and those who do nothing really blunder – You learn from your mistakes – To err is human. Popular proverbs, as well as great thinkers, teach us that making mistakes is an unavoidable aspect of being human, and can perform a positive function.
Yet, the majority of people experience errors as negative. We are still afraid of making mistakes, even if we are aware that we can discover something new through it, such as a new way of doing the same thing faster, in a more enjoyable way, or more productively.
The fact is that mistakes lead to social judgement, it can arouse feelings of shame and fear of others’ judgement, leading to a strong emotional impact on the individual, which does not allow one to “see” the mistake as anything but the dimension of an unfortunate stumble.
Even the dimension of time plays a defining role in the way a mistake is experienced.
What happens when we realise a mistake has been made?
We find ourselves in front of a crossroads: either we return to the starting point and try to restore what was there, or we try moving forward, we experience uncertainty, we walk an unknown road to find out where it will take us.
In fact, mistakes confront us with an inner experience of time, as explained by the philosopher E. Husserl. If I act to “repair” the error, try to erase my mistake and pick up from the starting point, possibly without anyone noticing, I look to the past, tend to want to return to the “known” and retrace the usual road. In this way, we can say that “habit” has won, driven by my desire to uphold my public image. Looking to the past, however, can never be a creative and innovative glance. It is a glance centred on oneself, on your inner world, which in this case mixes shame and fear.
Instead, if we decide to take the other road, to understand what is interesting about the mistake, it means our gaze shifts to what lies ahead, even if we do not have a clear picture of the future. It is uncertain, risky, but generative. On this road we find innovation and ideas. Our gaze is not directed at our internal dimension run by a barricaded ego, but to the outside with an attitude of openness. The Clearing, as it is called by M. Heideger, is understood as the space in which to “free, liberate and bring things into the open”.
Then we can understand the double meaning of “err”, understood as making mistakes, but also meaning to wander without a specific destination.
Once we realise that we have made a mistake, we can then either turn back and erase our tracks, or go forward towards a new approach, method or idea…
And since we are making a choice at a crossroads, we are dealing with individual responsibility. The mistake puts us in trouble. It throws down the gauntlet. It urges responsibility. It opens to glimmers of different worlds. It is problematic. That’s why it is interesting to look at it through different eyes. Disenchanted, not rhetorical, but curious. Mistakes deserve the same reasoning that Gianni Rodari applies to the grammar of imagination: “not because all are artists, but because no one is a slave”
Laura Rossi, co-founder of Evidentia
Laura Rossi, co-founder di Evidentia