People grow in various ways. We find growth through our success, but I find growth to be even more prevalent through our mistakes. Whether it’s the poor decisions we make in our work, relationships, or daily life, the most important thing is to not dwell on our mistakes. The lessons we take away from those choices lay the road to a better tomorrow.
I know firsthand that it can be difficult to forgive yourself when you make wrong choices. Time certainly helps with healing, but you must remember, nobody is perfect. Although you may always try to choose what’s best for yourself and those involved, sometimes you may not know what that may be — even when you think you do.
Nevertheless, it’s how you handle the fallout of these decisions that will dictate your growth.
Here are a few ways I’ve learned to do that, both through my work and personal life.
Three Tips for Learning from Your Mistakes
1. Acknowledge and Analyze Your Mistake
As humans, we are a prideful bunch. More often than not, you may not like to admit when you’re wrong. However, the sooner you accept a mistake, the sooner you can begin to learn from it. It’s not fair to yourself or those around you when you make excuses, especially when others are caught in the crossfire. Acknowledge the mistake, and you will be much better off.
After that, it’s important to understand what happened. Regain your composure, and ask yourself important questions such as:
- “What happened?”
- “How can I be sure to not repeat this mistake?”
- “What can I take away from this mistake?”
Consider physically writing down your responses for an extra helping of clarity. It’s easy for emotions to prevent logical thinking during the experience. Writing will help you see things more clearly.
2. Make It Hard to Mess Up
Once you analyze your mistake, you can begin to put the steps in place to prevent it from happening again.
For example, let’s say you keep forgetting an important step in a process for a task at work. To stop the recurring mistake, put a sticky note on your desk to remind you of what to do (or not to do). That will ensure a much higher rate of success.
Being vigilant in other areas of your life will help avoid mistakes as well. Perhaps you are easily taken advantage of by the people around you. Look for patterns of behavior in people and take note of the ones that treat you fairly vs. the ones that bring you down.
Or maybe you’re trying to exercise more in the morning but can never find the motivation. Lay out all your clothes the night before and schedule a workout appointment in your phone or planner to help get yourself going.
The key is to always be learning and putting the actions in place necessary to minimize error. As I said in tip #1, accept responsibility for the mistake and think about how it happened. Burying mistakes instead of learning from them is unhealthy, stressful, and destructive.
3. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you’re like me, you probably are an overthinker who hopes they are constantly doing the right things and making those around you happy. Accept that sometimes things are simply out of your control and mistakes will happen now and then.
Cut yourself some slack. Nobody is perfect — know that things won’t always go your way.
Perhaps you had a bad day or external factors like a lack of sleep, missing a meal, or unwanted stress caused you to err. No one intentionally screws up — it just happens sometimes. And that’s okay! That’s life. Pick yourself up and move on.
At the end of the day, we are only human, and humans are fallible. Mistakes come in all sizes, but none are incapable of being learned from. It’s all about perspective, humility, and seeing every mistake as a new opportunity to grow.
This insightful quote from The Lion King sums up the message well:
“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it.” - Rafiki
Your turn! How do you learn from your mistakes?