Six Common Critical Mistakes Which We Make


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by Jayaram V

No one is infallible. We make many mistakes, almost every day, and perhaps every hour. If you want to know how wrong you can be, you just have to invest in the stock market and day trade the stocks for a few weeks. You will learn a very costly lesson and realize how wrong or out of touch you can be with reality. We all live in a rather unpredictable and uncertain world where we have to deal constantly with ambiguity and confusion. We may take pride in our achievements, but we must remember that we are humans, with a mixture of light and darkness, knowledge and ignorance, perfections and imperfections, and strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, we also entertain many mistaken notions about ourselves and our abilities.

We are works of Nature in progress. Therefore, we are bound to make mistakes, succumb to temptations and fail to meet our own expectations. Since we are subject to many irrational beliefs, logical fallacies and thinking errors, we cannot always ascertain truths, make correct judgments or clearly perceive facts. Further, we live in a rapidly changing world where our values and norms keep changing. Our reality is complex and subject to many variables and unknowns. We must therefore be careful about what we do or how we think. We cannot avoid making mistakes, however careful we may be. In these circumstances, the best option that we have is to learn from them and become wiser.

I have my own share of mistakes in life. They have proven costly in many respects. They also make me feel guilty and remorseful. It is more painful when your mistakes cause pain and suffering to others. Mistakes are like self-inflicted wounds. They can make a big difference to our lives. You cannot blame anyone for them but yourself, although some may try to shift the blame and live in denial. It is not going to help them. Rather, it distracts them from what they are supposed to do. The best way to deal with them is to learn from them and cultivate right discretion and awareness to avoid similar mistakes in future.

You may not be counting the number of mistakes you might have made, although you may be aware of the major mistakes you made. It is difficult because they happen almost every day, with or without your knowledge. Most of them do not affect us much, except causing inconvenience, delay or some loss. However, some can prove costly or even fatal to your survival, success and happiness. The following ones are a few well-known mistakes most people commit due to ignorance or errors in thinking and perception, which can make a difference to their success, Wellbeing, peace and prosperity.

1. Not planning enough

Have you ever wondered whether you could have done something better or achieved success if you only you planned in advance and used your resources or opportunities more effectively? Have you ever started working on a presentation, research paper or documentation, without collecting necessary information or consulting the right people? Many people ignore the importance of planning even in such serious matters as starting a business or investing in a venture. They start acting upon vague ideas or jump into action without considering the pros and cons or the problems and consequences. It is especially true in today’s world, where people want to achieve instant success, using shortcuts if necessary.

The importance of planning cannot be underestimated. It must be taught to children very early in their lives, when they go to the middle school, before they have to start thinking of their college education and future careers. Planning is required at every step in your life, whether you want to buy or sell an important asset, enter marital relationship, educate your children, achieve success in your career or profession, start a business venture, plan for your retirement, invest your savings, undertake an important project, or even go on vacation or a long trip. It means, you must choose your goals and decide upon right methods and the right course of action to reach them.

2. Not preparing enough

It is going on a long hike or a climbing expedition without taking the right gear. Many people attend important meetings, without a clue whom they are going to meet, or what they are supposed to speak. It can happen if you are overconfident that you can tackle any problem or situation as it arises. It can also happen if you underestimate the importance or the seriousness of a situation or a venture or task. All important tasks require prior preparation, including the routine ones if they are complex in nature. Otherwise, it leads to mistakes, under performance and even loss of credibility and reputation. Imagine what happens if you start a business, without grasping the fundamentals or the extent of competition involved or the associated government regulations. Many people do it and find themselves in difficulties.

Preparation means making yourself physically and mentally fit to perform a given task. It is important to achieve success in any effort, whether it is giving a performance, meeting an important client, making a presentation, giving an examination, attending a job interview, selling or marketing a product or negotiating a deal. You do it by studying, knowing, inquiring, consulting, introspecting, verifying and asking to know what needs to be done, and how it should be done, the right way, with the right means. It helps you bridge the gap between expectations and performance, make right decisions, find right opportunities, build productive relationships, understand and stay ahead in competition, and proactively deal with problems and challenges.

3. Not paying enough attention

As time goes by, we tend to fall into routine and become habitual or assumptive in our thinking and behavior. Thereby, we tend to ignore things or people, and take them for granted or fail to notice the changes in them. Our thinking and perception are affected by many personal and environmental factors. The most important one among them is selective perception, which makes us see what we want to see rather than seeing the reality of things. Many businesses, projects and ventures fail as people who are responsible and accountable for them fail to pay adequate attention to people and problems or the changes that happen around them. Thereby, they fail to adapt or act in time.

Paying attention means, you have to be sensitive and in touch with what goes on around you and in you. You need to be proactively vigilant, closely observing people, processes, events, circumstance, etc., which have a direct impact upon your knowledge, understanding, performance, relationships and competitiveness. You also need to pay attention to yourself to know how you are responding to different situations, and whether you are personally improving. Attentive people are realistic and practical. It is an offshoot of their motivation, initiative and enthusiasm. When you play attention, you will think and act according to the reality of the situation, rather than according to your fears, prejudices, emotions or assumptions. You will proactively adapt to situations, make necessary changes, resolve problems, take corrective actions or foresee situations and opportunities before others. It gives you a competitive edge and a thorough grasp of each situation or problem.

4. Not listening to others

Listening has two specific meanings. One is the physical act of listening or hearing, which is important because it helps us know the world and people. With effective and empathetic listening, you will not only know what you hear but also the underlying emotions and motivation. It will also help you discern problems and establish rapport. Listening contributes to your knowledge and awareness. It improves your relationships and performance. By listening to your customers, you can improve your performance. By listening to your employees, you can become a better leader. You should also listen to your own thoughts and concerns and your intuition. By listening to yourself, you can adapt well to problems and challenges.

The second part of listening involves respecting the opinions of other people, having humility and openness to accept that you do not know everything, and considering those opinions and suggestions with which you may not agree. One of the chief barriers to this is the know-it-all attitude or the thought, “I don’t have to learn from them.” People who thus do not listen to others are blinded by their own egos, the pride, vanity or narrow-mindedness. They fail to take advantage of the knowledge and expertise, which would have been freely available to them if they were open minded and willing to listen. It is a major mistake many people in responsible positions commit.

5. Not knowing your faults

How frequently do you analyze your thoughts and actions? Can you list your strengths and weaknesses, or recollect a few important mistakes which you made in the past and which proved to be costly? If so, what lessons you learned from them and what improvements you brought in your thinking and behavior? We usually take ourselves for granted, and do not honestly acknowledge our mistakes or weaknesses. We may also become annoyed if someone criticizes us or points to our failures and shortcomings. Overtime, many business leaders tend to gather around them sycophants who tell them what they want to listen, rather than what they should. As a result, they live inside a bubble and fail to notice the whole picture.

Your life is shaped by the actions you take, and the choices you make. Other factors come later. You must not only know your faults and honestly acknowledge them but also work upon them to improve yourself. It means you must be honest and transparent with yourself, without undermining your self-esteem and positivity, and you must pay attention to your thoughts and actions to see whether they need improvement. By acknowledging your faults and imperfections and working upon them, you can keep improving your performance, knowledge and skills. It will also lead to increase self-awareness. There are five aspects to self-knowledge or self-awareness, what you know, what others know, what you do not know, what others do not know and what no one knows. If you keep an open mind and pay attention, you can extend your awareness into the unknown areas and improve yourself and your relationships.

6. Not having clarity

This is another important and frequent mistake which people commit in their personal and professional lives. All the above-mentioned mistakes can potentially lead to this one. Most situations we face in our lives are complex. They cannot easily be categorized into black and white categories, nor can we generalize or oversimplify them. We also lose clarity when we complicate things by focusing upon unrelated or unimportant issues or giving them too much importance. To resolve such problems, we need clarity in our thinking and perception. For that, we need to overcome our habitual thoughts, logical fallacies and thinking errors. We have to suspend our judgment and preconceived notions, and see things as they are.

Unfortunately, it does not always happen, since we are subject to many natural limitations. For example, we tend to over exaggerate our abilities and underestimate those of others. We fall into group think or value things and people not according to their inherent worth but in comparison to other things and people. Our decision making or judgment also becomes impaired if we have too much or too little information or knowledge. To succeed in life, you must have clarity in all important areas of your life. You must clearly know what you intend to achieve and how you are going to do it. If you have clarity, it will reflect in your thinking and actions, and you will be free from confusion and ambiguity about your purpose, direction or actions. You will have clarity when you have right knowledge and discretion or a clear sense of right and wrong, whereby you can make right decisions and pursue right goals.


We are prone to many mistakes. Since our lives depend mostly upon chance, we cannot always anticipate problems or find right solutions. Still, we must train ourselves to deal with common mistakes, to which we are vulnerable and avoid the critical mistakes such as the ones who we have discussed. It is better to have foresight and engage in future thinking, so that we can mentally and physically be prepared to deal with contingencies and plan for them in advance.

We also need to challenge our thinking, judgments, assumptions and opinions to make sure that we are not influenced by our own self-fulfilling prophecies, preconceived notions or irrational beliefs. Even after all such precautions, we are bound to make mistakes. When it happens to you, instead of worrying about them or blaming yourself or others, you should focus upon the solutions and alternatives. Treat each mistake as a learning experience and see that you do not repeat it again. This is the right approach to deal with your mistakes and the problems which arise from them.

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