Mistakes are the most valuable learning opportunities in life. It’s a subject we never tire of writing about on One Percent Better, and it’s about time it got its own article.
So without further ado, let’s get to it; why do you need to learn from your mistakes, and how can you do it effectively?
Learning from your Mistakes
Why is Learning from Your Mistakes Important?
You’ve probably heard the George Santayana quote about “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s a good summation of the biggest reason to learn from mistakes: because it will keep us from messing up again.
While hearing about how to do things correctly is a great way to prepare for whatever might come your way, solving the messes you made, and taking knowledge from that is more applicable to your own life. It is also easier to internalize, and the takeaway is more likely to change you for the better as a person.
How to Learn from Your Mistakes
Acknowledge You Messed Up
The first step towards turning a mistake into a practical learning opportunity is to acknowledge you messed up in the first place.
There is absolutely no shame in doing so. Everybody makes errors from time to time; anyone who says they don’t is either superhuman or a liar.
It is important not to externalize blame during this step. If you submitted a document late because your printer was broken, do not blame the printer. Take the blame on yourself for not maintaining a working printer or at least having a backup plan of some kind.
Ask Yourself Two Questions learn from your mistake
First, ask yourself what you could have done differently to avoid the mistake. Not what you would have done if you had somehow known the mistake was coming, but rather the measures you could have taken to “protect” yourself from an unforeseen issue arising at all.
Second, ask what, if any, doors were opened with the mistake. Almost everything that looks like a problem actually has a silver lining. If you can think outside the box and identify that lining, you can probably salvage at least part of the situation and learn from it.
After you’ve taken a step back, analyzed the mistake, and taken away lessons, it’s time to apply the lessons to your future.
Use your newfound knowledge about your own fallibility and the cause of your mistakes to guide changes in your life. Secure the resources needed to prevent the mistake from happening again, or apply any other positive learnings from the mistake to your routine.
Let Go learn from your mistake
Remember how earlier we advised you to take the blame upon yourself instead of externalizing it? Well, now that you’ve learned from the mistake, you can let that blame go. Don’t let it weigh you down.
You’ve done your due diligence by learning from your mistake, and now there is no reason to keep feeling guilty.
BONUS: Learn from Others’ Mistakes!
Although dealing with mistakes in the right way can turn them into valuable opportunities, it is still best to try to minimize the amount you make. And while you’re doing that, you can learn from others’ mistakes as if they were your own!
When you see someone else make a mistake that is particularly applicable to your own life, take a few minutes to put yourself in their shoes and think about how you can avoid the mistake in the future. Can you learn anything else from it?
Often, we are taught that failure is a bad thing. And it is if you don’t learn anything from it. But it can be a lot less harmful, and maybe even okay if you follow the steps outlined above and learn from your mistakes.