2: How to Deal With Mistakes


Even after three years of working in the same lab, I still encounter new challenges. Whether it be learning a new experiment or analyzing puzzling results or earning increased autonomy, there will always be new challenges to meet as a researcher. And I like that, because a job without challenges is boring (to me – you do you).

Sometimes, though, I find that I make mistakes on experiments I should know how to do; things that “should not be” challenging. In my opinion, these are the most frustrating mistakes, because they are unexpected, yet consequential.

I cope with these mistakes by practicing mindfulness. Often, the tasks we deem easiest are those we are most likely to perform absent-mindedly. And that’s the real danger: underestimating tasks that “should be” easy. Challenges are important, but sometimes, the most challenging tasks are the ones we do every day. By learning to focus on even the most mundane tasks, I was able to minimize these mistakes that were due to my own lack of focus, rather than negligence or ignorance.

“Simple” mistakes are often embarrassing to admit to having committed, but owning up to these mistakes is how we begin to promise to improve. There is no shame in making mistakes, as long as you continually – however gradually – strive to improve. And that requires patience, because while we never stop making mistakes, we also never stop improving.

Thank you for reading.

One thought on “2: How to Deal With Mistakes

  • August 22, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    What thoughtfulness and wisdom you have woven through this post, Fatima – thank you for what you’ve shared. I really admire what you’ve said about challenges being opportunities for learning – and that there is even challenge (and learning) to be found in the tasks we perform all the time. I also applaud the mindfulness you’ve committed to bringing to your routine work so that you remain fresh and focused in approaching it. I know it helps me to zoom out to the “why” behind my work when I’m feeling caught in the routine or the small details. Thanks again for your thoughts, and looking forward to your next post.


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