Mis-take. Sometimes a word gives us its own meaning. What if we could do a re-take of a mis-take – a do over! Of course this implies recognizing missteps and owning up to them as they happen. When we're skillful at recognizing mistakes in the moment, the lesson we learn is the prize.
Correcting mistakes is informative and humbling. I would not know how to chop vegetables, parallel park, or be sensitive to people’s needs, without redoing what feels wrong until it feels right.
It’s important to be attentive to our mistakes — to own them. We repeat mistakes because we avoid taking responsibility for them. Often it’s more satisfying to blame the situation or another person rather than examining our own role in what happened. For example, today’s weather includes gale-force winds. I was startled to see a gust lift an empty garbage pail, vault it over a stone wall, and land it with a cringe-worthy crunch on my neighbor’s driveway.
It’s tempting and easily excusable to make the wind the villain. It’s true and it’s not true. Last evening the weather forecaster warned us to anchor objects in anticipation of the storm. I heard him. I ignored him. Trash weighed the container down when I put it outside last night, but it became a flying missile when garbage collectors lightened its load this morning.
Do I blame the weather or apologize for my carelessness? Acknowledging my lazy blunder makes it far less likely I’ll repeat it in the future.
I’ve been monitoring my mistakes. I make a lot of them! I’ve also canvassed friends and colleagues. Here are some mis-takes we have in common (and our excuses):
Saying “yes” when we mean “no.” (We’re afraid of offending.)
Maintaining relationships with unappealing family members, friends, or colleagues. (We say “yes” when we mean “no.”)
Procrastinating on tasks with deadlines. (We resent pressure – even when it’s self inflicted.)
Ignoring health warnings like: regular teeth brushing, wearing sunscreen, bike riding without a helmet; listening to loud music, trying addictive substances. (We want what we want when we want it!)
Spending money now rather than saving for the future. (We deserve a reward.)
The French expression, faux pas (literally false step) includes the idea of rebalancing when we make a mistake. The philosopher Confucius understood this and cautioned:
"A person who commits a mistake and doesn't correct it,
is committing another mistake."
Directors of movies do re-takes of the same scene over and over. The director tests creative new staging ideas. Actors try different approaches to perfect their delivery. The camera plays back the retakes for review and consideration.
We too can honor the intent of the word mis-take – do a re-take.