How to learn & move on from your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, but what separates the successful from the unsuccessful is the ability to deal with them positively. In fact, the truly successful don’t just deal with mistakes, they embrace them and learn from them.

In the words of Dale Carnegie, author of one of the most important books on human relations in the history of the world How to Win Friends & Influence People, “A successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way”.

Use this four step process to embrace and learn from your mistakes.

1. Recognise it

In many ways this is the most important step. After all, how can you learn from your mistakes if you don’t know you’re making them?

To recognise mistakes, you need a keen sense of self-awareness which let’s be honest, not many of us have. So, now’s the time to start working on it.

Paul Jun, author of Connect the Dots says that self-awareness is the “condition of being constantly aware of your thoughts, beliefs, emotions and actions.” Follow Paul’s lead and practice these habits to become more self-aware:

  • Self-analysis. “Self-analysis is a stepping stone to become aware of your strengths and weaknesses, bad habits, opportunities seized or missed, and things you said or didn’t say.”
  • Acknowledgement. “You have to admit to yourself that you are obviously not perfect – no one is.” Once you do this, you will start to master yourself.
  • Paying attention to the details. Especially your emotions. “In a situation where you’re angry or frustrated … pay close attention to your emotions and thoughts when they arise.
  • Ask yourself: What is the difference between these emotions and what needs to get done? Let this shed light on where you should invest your energy.” As this becomes a habit “you unlearn the habit of doing something ineffective such as yelling and complaining…”
  • Daily Practice. Paul says “practicing self-awareness can be the start of living life the way it was intended for you to live.”

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them” – Bruce Lee

2. Own it

Mistakes are made everyday and they are never nobody’s fault.

At first glance, passing the blame can seem like an attractive option and you may very well get away with it. But, if you don’t the fall out will be way more than you bargained for.

Firstly, if after claiming your innocence you later admit to the mistake or worse, are found out, you will lose people’s trust. You will be known as a liar and a cheat. Your relationships and possibly your career could be put at risk. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Secondly, if we don’t own our mistakes we can’t learn from them. From birth, our knowledge, abilities and judgement are developed through the process of learning from our mistakes. From trial and error. At the end of the day, that’s what this process is all about so put your big boy pants on and own up!

3. Learn from it

Studies on the science of learning show that we are more likely to learn in an environment where we feel it’s OK to make mistakes.

To get the most out of our mistakes, featured LifeHack expert and author Paul Sloane, encourages us to look on the bright side and ask ourselves these questions:

  • What can I learn from this? There is a learning opportunity in every mistake and failure. Paul says “try to look at the experience objectively. Make a list of the key things that happened. Analyze the list step-by-step and look for the learning points.”
  • What could I have done differently? You know the old saying about hindsight being 20/20, well now’s the time to put it into action. Paul says to ask “what other options did you have? What choices did you make? How could you have handled it differently? With the benefit of hindsight, what different steps would you have taken?”
  • Do I need to acquire or improve some skills? We should all do a bit of a skills audit every now and then, and post-mistake is the perfect time to figure out what you should work on. Paul suggests starting with “books or courses or people you could turn to. Make a self-development plan to acquire the skills and experiences you need.”
  • Who can I learn from? At some point or another we all need the inspiration, guidance and help of role models, mentors and supportive friends. Is there someone you know that you can turn to? Paul says “if they are constructive and supportive, then ask them for some feedback and guidance.”
  • What will I do next? Think of your mistake as a “diversion rather than a halt” to your journey. Draw up an action plan and get on with the business of being successful. You’re the only one standing in your way.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana

4. Move on

There is no exact science when it comes to getting over things. From feelings of loss and grief to feelings of inadequacy or a loss of confidence, moving on is difficult under most circumstances.

If you’re struggling just remember that people out there in the world are moving on from their losses, failures and mistakes everyday. Therefore, it’s not impossible. If they’re doing it, you can too!

Try these tips for moving on:

Forget about it!

Not the lessons you’ve learned, but the fact that it happened in the first place. This takes a little bit of mental toughness or a ‘shooter’s mentality’ but it can be done.

If you’ve gone through all the steps above, there is no reason to keep letting your mistake hold you back. Let it go!

Do it again!

Practice makes perfect. So, what better way to prove you can be trusted than showing you’ve learned from your mistakes and can now do what ever it was you got wrong as good, if not better than anyone else.

Become an expert at it!

Read. Research. Talk about it with experts. What ever it is, you can learn what others know and never have to worry about repeating your mistakes.

Do you have any tips for dealing with mistakes? Sharing is caring so please share them in the comments box below.


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