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Mistakes at Work: Enemies or Teachers?

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.

Read more: Spirit, Inspiration

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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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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Awake At Work

35 practical Buddhist principles for discovering clarity and balance in the midst of work's now


+ add your own
10:02AM PDT on May 15, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

1:04AM PST on Feb 3, 2013

Thank you :)

5:14AM PST on Dec 19, 2012


3:52PM PST on Dec 8, 2012

will try harder

6:36PM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

Mainly teachers.

3:40PM PST on Feb 13, 2012

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

9:57AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

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

8:03AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

Thank you.

12:06PM PDT on Oct 12, 2011


2:49AM PDT on Oct 12, 2011


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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people are talking

Thanks for sharing. Wish I was happier.

Omg, so cute! :)

Most intriguing

This is a disaster waiting to happen. :( Very bad decision.


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