Julius Caesar once said “experience is the teacher of all things” also worded as “experience is the best teacher”. While I do not agree entirely with this, experience does have much merit in the general growth curve of man. Humankind is designed to learn fastest from personal experience. When we are younger, we learn by experiencing our surroundings. We learn by mimicking the language and behavioral patterns of our parents and those around us. And throughout our lives, our level of ability, skills, and even our personality are mostly developed through this personal inclusion and experience. And the more we experience, the more we open ourselves up to further growth. Mistakes too are experiences we go through in our lives, and even though they are not exactly happy experiences, they present us with an equal opportunity to learn. But unless we have a positive view and relationship with mistakes, we will only see them as errors and thus miss the lessons they are supposed to teach us. So in this article, we’re going to look at the right relationship to have with mistakes, how we can learn, and put into practice what we learn from our mistakes.
Your relationship with mistakes
What view do you have of mistakes? Your personal view of mistakes will not only determine whether or not you learn from your mistakes but also how fast you can do so. Many of us see our mistakes as negative experiences which are to be as soon discarded and forgotten. But I have news for you, all experience is positive, whether it is good or bad because it always presents you with an opportunity for growth. So even when we make mistakes, we still win because, with the right attitude, we can be able to find the lesson in that experience, and become much better in the aftermath of our mistake. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. There is always a lesson to be learned, you just have to train yourself to seek and recognize it.
When we don’t learn from our mistakes, we sabotage our own growth. Because we automatically enter a cycle of repetition which continues until the day we do, putting ourselves in the process, through unnecessary pain, frustration, and regret. As opposed, to seeing our mistakes as a chance for growth, and harnessing that potential. Below are some benefits of learning from your mistakes.
SOME BENEFITS OF LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES
- Leads to an increase in wisdom and knowledge in the individual.
- Builds critical thinking skills.
- Leads to better decision-making skills.
- Helps develop a good sense of judgment.
- Provides an opportunity for personal growth.
HOW TO LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
- Have a growth mindset
- Your mindset plays an important role in conditioning not only how you see your own mistakes, but also how you react to them. This is where the growth mindset comes in, people with this mindset are driven by the desire for growth and they pursue it. The fixed mindset is antagonistic to the growth mindset and is exhibited by people who believe in the status quo and live by it. If you want to be able to learn from your mistakes, you have to develop a growth mindset.
- Acknowledge your mistake
- There is no better way to say this than take responsibility! You can never begin to grow as long as you still are unable to accept responsibility for your own actions. Before you can learn from your mistake, first you have to own the mistake. Always be the first to recognize and acknowledge your mistake, this acceptance immediately points you towards the lesson to be learned. But as long as you keep blaming other people and things for the results of your own actions, this possibility will never open up to you.
- Examine the mistake
- The next evident step is to personally analyze the mistake. This means taking out some time to go over the events, thoughts, and actions that led to the mistake. You must ask yourself the following questions;
- How good was my planning?
- What went wrong?
- When did it go wrong?
- Why did it go wrong?
- How can I fix it?
- This process should only end after you have answered all these questions satisfactorily. It is worthy of note that this is not a time for regret but for constructive criticism.
- Ask for feedback from the right people
- It is impossible to see all the answers by introspection alone. After you personally examine the mistake, next, you want to ask the opinions of some trusted people. But remember, not all feedback is good feedback. Before asking for feedback from anyone, make sure;
- They have relevant information regarding your specific case
- They have recorded success in the area of your case
- They are genuine
- Getting genuine and relevant feedback provides for a clearer appreciation of things. Since we get to view the same mistake from different angles; our approach is much more objective.
- At this stage, you bring together all the data you have collected from your personal examination and the feedback from others. Evaluating this information will clearly enlighten you on exactly what needs to be done moving forward, to help you avoid repeating the same mistake again. Use this information to identify tools and resources which will aid in preventing you from repeating the mistake. For example, making a list of all the reasons why you don’t want to repeat the mistake can serve as a great tool for visual reinforcement of your resolve.
- It is one thing to have a well mapped out plan on how to avoid the mistake in the future, and another thing entirely to follow through with the plan. Applying what you have learned requires much discipline and self-motivation. Learning requires you to change. It may be a single detail that needs changing or your entire approach but like Albert Einstein rightly said, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”
- Personal Accountability
- Holding yourself accountable is a very crucial part of learning from your mistakes. You cannot learn unless you as an individual wish to. And for that to happen, you need to hold yourself to account. This means in the first place, taking full responsibility for your mistakes, and then pushing yourself to do all that is necessary to not repeat the same mistakes. In trying to do so, we develop the courage to challenge our own limitations, and learning naturally ensues from such intentional and determined effort.
- Final Remarks
- To err is human, and as human beings, we are all prone to make mistakes but with every mistake, we have an opportunity to learn and grow. But again, learning and growth take the desire and strength to change oneself. I hope after reading this, that you find the courage to see your mistakes as stepping stones for improving yourself, and start learning from your mistakes today.