Understanding Why We Make Mistakes at Work

August 19, 2023
David Sunnyside

The sinking feeling that comes with a mistake at work, no matter the size, can be debilitating. Whether it’s forgetting to send an email to a client or losing revenue, mistakes can cause a ripple effect of anxiety. While it is important to take responsibility for your actions and move forward, it’s also necessary to understand why we make mistakes and how to avoid them in the future.

Mistakes are one of the best ways to learn. Think of it like falling off your bike and scraping your knee—it hurt but you learned a valuable lesson. Similarly, mistakes can help you improve your technical and soft skills by giving you the opportunity to try new approaches, learn from your errors, and practice new strategies.

When we make a mistake, brain areas responsible for two types of learning are activated: avoidance learning and reward-based learning. The former helps you avoid repeating a mistake in the future, while the latter motivates you to find a way to fix your error.

It’s also important to note that we tend to make more mistakes when we are stressed or anxious, especially in high-pressure situations. It’s a good idea to relax before you start working and avoid distractions (like Facebook or YouTube) in order to reduce the likelihood of making unintended errors.

It’s also crucial to be self-aware and recognize when we’re engaging in a “thinking trap,” which is a negative thought pattern that can prevent us from seeing a situation clearly. You can improve your self-awareness by practicing meditation, conducting a personal inventory, and asking for feedback from friends and colleagues.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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