As I was tucking my three-year-old son into bed tonight, he mentioned that he was concerned that he might have a hard time falling asleep because he was thinking about monsters and ghosts. I set out to explain to him that the wonderful thing about thinking is that we have the option to change our thoughts if we don’t like them. Earnestly, and with great seriousness, I suggested, “If you don’t want to think about monsters and goats–Wait, did I just say GOATS?” At which point, we both erupted in convulsive laughter and literally fell on top of each other, red in the face with hilarity.
I am a person who once dedicated a large portion of my life to the elusive concept of perfection–attempting to train my life to its trellis. And, it’s at moments like these — of absurd mistakes despite my great effort — that I remember the grace of human connection that awaits us in our flub-ups. With one single tongue-twist, a lecture leapt to laughter and actually accomplished the same thing I was trying to teach (a shift in consciousness) far more effectively and quickly.
I have had similar discoveries almost every time I speak to an audience. The terror of being discovered to be a fraud that would overcome me for many years made me stiff, unnatural, tight-voiced, awkward until I actually messed something up–revealing my fraud-ness for all to see–and found, to my shock, no matter how many times it happened, that it was paradoxically the mistakes that built a bridge between listeners and me in ways that a purely polished presentation never could.
It is my hope that my son and I will establish a lifelong practice of treasuring our mistakes for the windows that they are into all that we magnificently and hilariously can not control. It is my intention that when we start taking ourselves too seriously, we can have a reference as simple as GOATS! to bring us back to silly center.
And, I want the same for you.
What would it take for you to treasure every mistake (from high-stakes to inconsequential) you have made and are going to make? Because, chances are good that if you’re messing up, it’s because you’re reaching higher or deeper or more uncertainly than you ever have before, and that is a risk worth celebrating. Or, maybe you’ve made a mistake because you’re exhausted, or simply not very good at something you’ve decided to try. Still: the mistake is the badge of honor that commemorates your effort. It will serve as a growth marker the next time you try, and the next.
I’m quite certain that the monsters and ghosts will be hard pressed to make trouble for us when we’ve turned our attention to goats.