The truth about mistakes is that they are always relative to a desired outcome or a goal. Erasing a file from the computer is not a mistake in itself, but deleting the draft of a book you’re writing is definitely one. Turning left is not a mistake in itself, but turning left when your destination is to the right is a mistake. When you set goals you immediately define some of the potential mistakes you can make. Of course, you don’t need to make all possible mistakes in order to learn. If you’re smart your mistakes will always teach you something; keep a backup of your important files, check the map or have a GPS in your car when you’re somewhere you haven’t been before etc.
At the time they are made, mistakes are a setbacks, but on the long run they can be productivity enhancers, because they have the potential to teach you for the future. It could seem like a vicious circle: the more mistakes you make the more productive you can get. In a sense it is true. What you can do is avoid making the same mistake over and over again, because that is the definition of insanity: doing the same over and over again while hoping for a different outcome.
Thankfully, by keeping a few things in mind you can reduce the possibility of mistakes.
- Set both smart goals and SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound, while smart goals are long-term goals, often not specific and appear as horizons that you want to move towards. Losing 10lbs by the end of the month, passing a history exam with merit at the end of the term or making 1 million dollars by this time next year are SMART goals, but at the same time stupid goals if they’re the only ones you have. If they’re the only goals you have you will be without a goal as soon as you reach them. Smart goals are to live a healthy lifestyle, be one of the best minds in your field or building a business that can sustain your family. SMART goals are medium term goals that function as a stepping stone toward your bigger goals.
- Plan out how you want to reach your goal, and see how others have done it before. In this step you can be the wise man and learn from the success and the failure of others in the past in order to learn from them.
- Your primary commitment is to the systems you put in place and not to your goals, because they’re bound to help you reach your goals. Make micro-commitments to your systems, which will turn into habits. These are exercise routines, morning rituals in order to enhance your productivity or new study habits, such as mind-mapping or word-dumping. Goals are for the planning stage, and systems are for the stage where you make progress.
- Listen to others who have done it before. Often an external opinion is all you need to realize the little you need to make for a huge gain. Don’t listen to any opinion, but to advice from someone who has been successful in the field you want to conquer.
- Build feedback loops to revise if your system is working and evaluate your progress against the desired medium and long-term outcome. If you’re making progress, congratulations, otherwise it is time to tweak the system or to commit again.