Mistakes at Work: Enemies or Teachers?

It is inevitable that we make mistakes. Some are small, like dialing the wrong number, and some are monumental, like permitting the Challenger space shuttle to launch. When we do our jobs well, we try to limit our mistakes, and we never intentionally mess up. We dislike making mistakes because they create confusion and doubt and can leave us and our colleagues feeling inadequate and embarrassed. But mistakes happen. And how we handle them makes all the difference.

Find out the Buddhist secret to dealing with our mistakes, so that they become our best teachers rather than our enemies, here:

Mistakes require that we retrace our steps, repair damage, and reassess our views. In many instances, mistakes can be our best teachers because they demand that we learn vital lessons about ourselves and how we do our jobs. They require that we stop and consider our circumstances carefully, right here, right now. When we treat mistakes as enemies rather than teachers, we inevitably end up behaving like cowards. Rather than accepting responsibility, we distance ourselves from problems and difficulties. Rather than facing facts with accountability and precision, we blame or make excuses.

Being honest about mistakes at work requires tact, humility, and skill. When we permit mistakes to teach us, we discuss problems discreetly and listen to others’ points of view. We treat facts as friendly and we learn ways to improve our jobs. When we are honest about our mistakes, we slow down and take full stock of our circumstances. This requires us to open ourselves fully to the discomfort and detail, rather than rush past our circumstances, papering over the failures, to regain a false sense of mastery.

We can bravely learn from our failures without blaming others. Such courage is both demanding and refreshing. Since we are willing to be truthful, precise, and accountable, we are not confused by self-deception. Since we are willing to be honest, there is no struggle.

Adapted from Awake at Work, by Michael Carroll (Shambhala, 2004). Copyright (c) 2004 by Michael Carroll. Reprinted by permission of Shambhala.
Adapted from Awake at Work, by Michael Carroll (Shambhala, 2004).

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Marianne Good
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton2 years ago


Jane Mckenzie
Jane Mckenzie2 years ago

will try harder

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener3 years ago

Mainly teachers.

iii q.
g d c.3 years ago

good points.
but what of the people who never seem to learn from their mistakes at work?

J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

How well this healthy approach works depends on those managing and supervising the workplace sharing these values and views.

Susan S.
Paul Stephan3 years ago

Thank you.

Tim Cheung
Tim C.4 years ago


Ida J.
Ida J.4 years ago