Why do we make mistakes?

This question involves two key terms which have to be defined in order to have a meaningful discussion surrounding why mistakes happen through our own doing. Mistakes are often made in times of change, mistakes can result from carelessness, or not knowing all of the right information, or indeed, from circumstances that are, in the main part, outside of our control. For example, driving a car can be a mistake ridden enterprise with many processes and external independent agents having an influence on one’s own behaviour. It is futile to try to control externalities whilst driving, one can only moderate their own action. However, while this may lead to a reduction in the risk of making mistakes, it does not remove them entirely.

The kind of mistakes that the question dictates are the ones which are caused by our own oversight. Oversight is akin to overlooking something. There is many reasons why some things are overlooked. Maybe the overlooked factor is judged to be insignificant, or that it is not recognised at all. It could be that the individual does not have adequate information and therefore makes a mistake by default. One thing is clear about making mistakes, mistakes are made and cannot be said to have positive consequences by default of the term ‘mistake’.

Mistakes, in their very nature have inflicted some element of pain on an agent, an organisation or other externals like the environment, for example. A dentist appointment that I had quite recently had to be rearranged, I was rescheduled in and arrived at the surgery well in advance of the appointment, fulfilling the requirements of a patient. I was told however, that there had been a mistake and that there was no sign of the appointment in the calendar. This mistake—the receptionist’s oversight—did not actually affect the practice that much as all they had to do was rebook another appointment. I was quite inconvenience on the other hand, having had my day broken up by an appointment that was never going ahead anyway.

An example of where externals are affected by mistakes can be seen in the havoc created in the natural environment by accidental oil spills that happen when oil companies make a mistake whilst fracking. There are many reasons why such mistake’s are made, but on the most part, my argument is that most mistakes are made by oversight.

How do we remove this defect of character? One way in which I propose this unhelpful attribute to be removed is by taking care of one’s self. This may seem an unlikely first port of call in response to the question, but as an agent, we only have control over our own actions. Seeing as mistakes happen as a result of these actions we should be sure only to patrol the boundaries within which it is possible to make a substantial difference, and that is with ourselves. The reason we need to take care of ourself is to remove the likelihood of oversight and to therefore reduce the potential for mistakes. It is only when we are in a happy frame of mind, not bogged down by worries or overburdened, do we tend to pay attention to what is going on around us in our lives. Mistake’s will subside when attention increases: be good to yourself and the world. Lest we make another mistake!

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