Being wrong is just a few creative thoughts or actions from being right.
By V.K. Harber
There is a TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson from 2007 that I recently listened to. His talk is about how the educational system is killing creativity and his argument is very moving and not easily ignored. (And may be a helpful tool in explaining to people a choice not to educate a child in mainstream ways)
My main takeaway from this talk, at this point in my life as the mother of a toddler, was a very simple phrase. He said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original”. This makes perfect sense to me as all the problem-solvers I’ve ever known personally and professionally have also been the most creative minds I’ve ever known. You hand them a situation, you tell them the tools at their disposal, and they figure it out in ways that delight and astound, but a problem had to exist first in order for them to use their creativity in this way.
Fostering creativity in our children is something I think many of us put a great deal of effort into. It is certainly something that we, as a society, say that we value very much. And yet mistakes, both big and small, are often not framed as opportunities for creative thinking. I think and hope that this is changing but in my house growing up, making a mistake was the worst thing I could possibly do. Being wrong was a fate worse than most and I didn’t learn until well into my 20s to see mistakes, not only as opportunities for growth, but also as minor bumps rather than major events.
Not everyone grew up in a house like mine, but if I were a betting gal I would comfortably make a bet that for most of us, making mistakes is wrapped up with feelings of shame and guilt and unworthiness. From work like to family life and everything in between, mistakes tend to be seen as something to avoid at all costs. As always, I’m wondering how I can make sure that this is not passed onto my son. How can I parent in a way that will allow my son to explore his creativity, not only through blatantly creative pursuits, but also through fostering an environment where missteps are seen as puzzle pieces that must be rearranged in new and interesting ways to find the best possible outcome? How can I make sure he knows and feels and understands that being wrong is not even close to the worst thing in the world?
I think sometimes in our efforts to instill a moral compass in our children we neglect to highlight the very big difference between “doing wrong” and “being wrong”. Intentionally doing harm to ourselves or others is one thing, but making false assumptions and bad guesses – that’s just being human. There were a whole lot of false assumptions and bad guesses before we had light bulbs and motor vehicles and airplanes.
For me, modeling this behavior is a huge challenge. I can be very hard on myself when I make a mistake and though I have improved dramatically over the years, and continue to do so, I still have a ways to go. One thing I try to do is point out my mistakes and talk through how I’ve gone about handling whatever challenges they’ve presented. These things can be small, like when I add tomatoes to a recipe when I was supposed to add coconut milk because I wasn’t paying attention to which can I was opening. Dinner disaster? No! Opportunity to create a new dish! These things can be bigger, like when I dropped my iPhone in the toilet because I wasn’t being very careful. The days it took for me to get a replacement were spent analyzing how connected I want to be on a day-to-day basis and thinking up new mutually satisfying ways to be touch with loved ones without being available all the time. (Also spent some time devising plans for a new homemade case that will make this virtually impossible to do again, which was a huge creative challenge for me).
These are things my own mother would have never done. If she saw her mistakes as opportunities for growth or creative thinking, she never let me in on it. Through my eyes, my mother was never wrong so if something wasn’t right, it had to be my fault. This is a legacy I do not wish to pass on and I’m hoping that by being open about my mistakes I’ll avoid just that.
So, my new mantra: being wrong is just a few creative thoughts or actions from being right.
How do you foster creativity in your children? How do you create an environment in which your children can see mistakes as opportunities to be creative? How do you handle your own mistakes?
About V.K. Harber
YOUR BIO—V.K. Harber is a yogi, writer and mother of one. She is the co-founder and former managing director of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center in Tacoma, WA, a non-profit yoga studio.She currently resides in Seoul, South Korea where she works as a yoga teacher and post-partum doula. (www.vkharber.com) She is also a contributing writer at World Moms Blog and can be found on twitter @VKHarberRYT.