BRAIN HEALTH | 10.19.2015 | BY DAYA ALEXANDER GRANT, Ph.D., M.S.
Let us clarify: make mistakes as long as you learn from them. We all know that Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots in his career and that Thomas Edison had over 1,000 failed attempts at inventing the light bulb. But there is more and more scientific evidence that failure really is good for your brain, and is actually a necessary ingredient for success.
To better understand this, let’s look at the results of two neuroscience studies from 2011. Researchers found that one of two things happen after a person makes a mistake:
1) The brain ANALYZES the mistake to figure out why it happened, and then pays more attention on the next decision to avoid making the same mistake again – this is a productive response; OR,
2) The brain AVOIDS the mistake because it perceives the negative feedback as a threat. It essentially shuts down the opportunity to learn – this is an unproductive response.
So what does this all mean? Well, we can either ignore the mistake and ultimately stifle our personal growth. Or, we can learn from the mistake so that we’re able to perform better in the next situation. We have the power to choose. Next time you make a mistake (which will happen… they’re inevitable!), give yourself an opportunity to grow and allow your brain the time and space to process the failure. It’s not about beating yourself up, but rather objectively analyzing your mistake so that your brain is better prepared to handle the next situation.