How To Turn Your Mistakes Into Strengths


We all make mistakes. Make the wrong turn. Forget to buy milk. Date that ex. Perforate that tooth. Mistakes are a part of life. Yet many of us early in our career beat ourselves up for mistakes. We sit up at night thinking about outcomes that could have been better, ruminating on what we should’ve done or what we wish we had thought of earlier.

Or at least I do.

Sure, we do plan to make no mistakes, we work only within our comfort level and competence and treat every single patient the best we can. This is a given, you’re a healthcare professional not a well educated con artist. However, mistakes will happen.

Tony Robbins makes a good point. “Our biggest problem is that we think we shouldn't have problems. Problems are what make us grow, problems are what make us become more”. Problems highlight for us areas that need improvement. It is the roadmap to our development into more competent well rounded clinicians.


Use a Diary to Turn Intention into Action


Good intention is easy, action is what will make the difference. I’d assume you read this thinking of course we should grow from our mistakes.

But do you actually take action?

After a clinical session, my tutor and I were discussing how to improve. She let me know that throughout Uni and early private practice she kept a diary. A simple suggestion that I think makes all the difference. (I forget who, if it was you and you read this - Thank you) I went on to write a short note about the good and the bad from clinic daily. However I’ve never been one to keep a physical copy so I transitioned early to an App.

The App - Journey


Journey allows me to write short notes that are dated with tags. I tend to write about only the extremes now - the big mistakes, thoughts about it, techniques that worked. I try to tag them with topics so i can look back collectively at a subject.

Writing about it helps a lot. Yet the biggest improvement is when you take the time, to review this and consider how far you come and also keep focus areas for improvement front of mind. I plan to do this monthly and often remember quarterly. Better than nothing I guess!


Recently I went around the sun again and James gave me a book as a present. “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson. Not sure how he knew it was on my list to read. Also not sure exactly what he’s trying to say…?

Either way, great book. Mark makes a great point. In this world of social media we are constantly exposed to perfection, success and impossible achievements. While selectively withholding the reality where thousands of hours of dull repetitive practice is the prerequisite to success. The old mantra of ten thousand hours to master a skill hasn’t changed.


The reason we feel stress, find ourselves ruminating over outcomes and at times feel a dark cloud of fear of inadequacy is because of our values, not despite them. Learn to accept failures. Study your mistakes. Welcome the lesson with an open mind. Then grow above them. Not into them.

David is a recent graduate dentist working in private practice in regional NSW, Australia. Read more at

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