New Year’s resolution: Finding perfection in mistakes

By Sabrina Bong — Every year, I like to hear what others come up with for their New Year’s resolutions. Here are a few of the more common ones I’ve heard so far:

  • Lose weight.
  • Get back in touch with someone.
  • Find a job.
  • Find a job that one actually enjoys.
  • Go back to school.
  • Look on the bright side of things.

I have always enjoyed New Year’s resolutions. The New Year invites us to start with a clean slate. As a result, we can begin each year with a new outlook, new goals, and new opportunities. My resolution, however, is a little bit different.

Recently, Marquette’s College of Education tweeted about an article that talked about teaching and learning from mistakes. The article talked about how important it is for teachers to help students strive for success. At the same time, teachers should also be aware that sometimes allowing the students to make mistakes will actually teach them more. Telling a student exactly how to write and structure a paper is important. However, providing a student specific feedback and explaining why it is important to structure a paper this way has a greater impact. Allowing students to make mistakes also holds the students accountable for their own learning. It was very intriguing to hear this viewpoint.

I must admit here that I am, without a doubt, a slight perfectionist. When I handwrite posters or thank-you notes, I obsess over whether my handwriting is straight enough. I will restart a paper numerous times if I think it isn’t up to par. I will stress out about an assignment or exam until I get the grade back. The same thing could be said about my counseling abilities. I will worry about whether I said the right thing or not; whether I asked the right question; whether I am actually challenging the client’s emotions or just letting them be. And, being a perfectionist, I wonder what it takes to be a perfect counselor.

This article, however, is making me realize that there is more to counseling (and to life) than just doing everything perfectly. While it’s good to strive for excellence and perfection, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are human. We are bound to make mistakes. However, that does not mean that we are bad counselors. The only way we will not succeed at being counselors is if we refuse to acknowledge and learn from our mistakes. If we are able to take our mistakes and use them to our advantage – really understand why we made this mistake and what we can do to prevent it in the future – we will learn so much more. Not only about ourselves as people, but ourselves as counselors. I hope that with this new knowledge, I will be able to start forming my own philosophy on counseling and integrate this idea of exploration and learning into it. My resolution is to embrace the mistakes, learn from them, and use them to help others.

As Confucius said: “Our greatest joy is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Hope you all have a Happy New Year (and good luck with those resolutions.)

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