Weekend Meditation: Whoops!

In Praise of Making Mistakes

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Many people are taking up their New Year's resolutions right now and those of us inclined to cook invariably say we're going to try something new, or something intimidating, or something that we believe we're bad at or have failed at in the past. In other words, we've vowed to make mistakes.

Hurray for us!

It's amazing to me how much the fear of making a mistake can stop me from trying something I really want to do. Amazing and sad. So this year, I've vowed to not do that. Here is my seven step plan for taking this on...

Notice it My first challenge is to notice when I'm succumbing to the fear because often I'm not registering that I'm doing that. We all take on identities based on our fear driven assumptions and we never think to question them. I wonder what would happen if someone who firmly says "I can't make bread" were to vow to make one loaf of bread a week for a year, or for six months even. I know I would like to be hanging around her kitchen by the end of her experiment, if not sooner.

Do it anyway Once the fear/aversion pattern is recognized, the second step is to say 'aw, what the hell' and do it anyway. After all, what do you have to lose? Which brings me to point three:

Don't make the stakes too high...at least at first Our bread adverse friend should not start off by making 6 fresh loaves of baguette for her very important dinner party. That's just too much. Instead, maybe she should start on a quiet Sunday afternoon with a loaf of basic white. If it turns into a 12-inch black brick, no one but her will be the wiser. She can just (hopefully) just shrug it off, having lost nothing more than a few cups of flour and a bit of her time.

Failure is fun! So one should enter into this fully expecting to fail (point four) and knowing that, (point five) lighten up a little. Once you drop the idea that failure is a problem, you remove the anxiety, stress, and fear from the situation. This transforms your activity into the realm of play, encourages curiosity and experimentation. It makes it possible for all sorts of things to occur. In other words, it makes it fun.

Persistence and Passion That said, it's hard to keep going in the middle of failure, set backs, and disappointments. Point six is: no matter what, keep doing it. Don't fall back to your fear-based default. One way to do encourage this (point seven) is to become passionate about your subject, become an expert. Read books, talk to people, take classes. If that's too much, at least do a little research on the internet and see what people are saying. Keep learning and exploring. In other words, become a geek.

I hope and encourage all of us to try something new this year in the kitchen, to challenge our assumptions around who we are and what we can do. Whatever the outcome, I guarantee the journey will be at the very least interesting and at the most, transformtive. Just be sure you let us know what happens!

Image: The author's first attempt at making kettle corn, new year's day 2009

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Weekend Meditation

Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.

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