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How to Identify and Learn from Your Mistakes

Snehal Motkar
Learning from your own mistakes is possible only when you are able to identify and accept them. Well, it's never easy to accept a mistake. Here are a few pointers that may help you overcome your mistakes in a better way.
Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us. - L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
As a convention, we have been taught to be ashamed of our mistakes, and the one who makes more of them is not considered as intelligent. However, intelligence is not fixed, and a person should never be judged based on his errors. A new way to deal with mistakes begins by saying "Ah! Interesting", instead of "Oops!" when you make a mistake.
Now, why this change in the reaction after making a mistake? It is because mistakes are our true teachers, and the person who makes more of them gets to learn more.

If we have a closer look at the above quote, we can learn three important things from it. Firstly, as humans we are bound to make mistakes.
So, don't keep telling yourself, "Oh S**t! How could I make such a silly mistake?", and find no answer for it. Secondly, understand that we can't change what is done. So, it's better to put it behind, and move on. Thirdly, once the mistake has happened and you have left it in the past, it's over.
Don't allow your mind to recall it in the future and reflect on it, because it will fetch you nothing but sheer disappointment. Furthermore to my understanding, not to carry mistakes into the future also means not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Try new things, make new errors, and widen the scope for learning new things.

Recognize Your Mistakes

When I have listened to my mistakes, I have grown. - Hugh Prather

The first and most crucial step is identifying or realizing that you have made a mistake.
We tend to blame the circumstances instead of admitting that we must have done something wrong, intentionally or unintentionally. There might be certain situations that make right things go wrong, but it may happen once in a while.

Take Responsibility

Admit your errors before someone else exaggerates them. - Andrew V. Mason

Recognizing the mistake and taking its responsibility go hand in hand. When we don't take the responsibility of whatever has happened, we are either blaming the situation, or we are justifying our actions.
However, we tend to justify our actions just for the sake of our ego. Moreover, it is always easy to simply say, "Yes, I made a mistake" than to keep denying, or justifying it.

Don't Repeat the Same Mistakes

Everybody deserves second chances, but not for the same mistakes. - Unknown
This is a crucial point wherein one should understand that it is good when the mistakes committed happen for the first time; in the other words, things that have already happened in the past and taught you a lesson should never be repeated. Remember, a mistake that is repeated twice, no longer remains a mistake but becomes a choice.
Furthermore, it also determines that you are not making progress, which isn't a good sign. To be more precise, slips often occur due to a laid-back attitude, and to stop repeating them, it is essential to change your mental attitude including certain habits.
These could include staying up late at night, reaching late for work the next day, forgetting appointments frequently, etc.

Implement Whatever You Have Learned

If truth were not often suggested by error, if old implements could not be adjusted to new uses, human progress would be slow. - Oliver Wendell Holmes
Once you learn not to repeat similar errors, know that you are implementing whatever the mistake has taught you; it's a sign that you are showing progress in life. Keep trying a new approach, and change the behavioral pattern that you were following prior to the mistake.
If the situation is complex, approach someone who is trustworthy, and take guidance. Implement the recommendation given by that person, and go back to him for a judgment. Making more mistakes and implementing the lessons received from them is an indication that you are learning faster.

Choose Healthy Striving Over Perfectionism

Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it. - Salvador Dali
There is no harm in trying to achieve perfectionism in every task you perform, but somewhere it is necessary to understand the limit to stretch yourself while becoming perfect. Thus, it's best to believe in healthy striving instead of attaining perfectionism.
While setting goals, take into consideration your necessities, rather than doing them in response to external expectations. Make sure you lay challenging goals for yourself. Moreover, see if you are limiting your capabilities while trying to be perfect and narrowing down the scope for reaching newer ideas and concepts existing in this universe.

Learn from Others' Mistakes

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long to make them all yourself. - Eleanor Roosevelt
While setting goals, take into consideration your necessities, rather than doing them in response to external expectations. Make sure you lay challenging goals for yourself. Moreover, see if you are limiting your capabilities while trying to be perfect and narrowing down the scope for reaching newer ideas and concepts existing in this universe.
While you are analyzing your own faults, it is also important to keep an eye on the things happening around you. Be a keen observer of things done by your family members, relatives, friends, etc., as it will help you identify their faults, and give you a clue to avoid repeating them on your part.
Learning something on your own as well as from others' faults can be practiced on different levels. For instance, in a family, you can invite every member to share their mistake of the day and what they learned from it.
This sharing can be done at the time of dinner, or any other suitable time when everyone is back home from work, school, college, etc. In school, a teacher may plan a class meeting once in a week, and allow students to share their errors and the lessons they have learned.

Attitude Matters

Don't let your failures define you-- let them teach you. - Barack Obama
Human psychology also plays an important role in accepting and learning from one's own mistakes. Research has shown that if you are an optimistic person by nature, you have more chances of learning something from your mistakes.
On the contrary, if you approach them in a negative or pessimistic manner, you are more likely to focus on the occurrence of the mistake than the experience that you'll be getting from it.
Psychological studies in this field have also found that people who think they can learn from their faults or believe that intelligence is malleable, have a different reaction in the brain after making a mistake than those, who think intelligence is fixed, and that they can't get better.
The former type of individuals, when dealing with a mistake, say that when things are difficult, they try to put in more efforts and learn. However, the latter ones feel that there is no scope for betterment, and that they have failed. They never think of utilizing the opportunities to learn from what has happened.
To put it in simple terms, if you want your mistakes to be the stepping stones to success, it is essential to change your negative attitude or beliefs about mistakes and develop the attitude that Rudolf Dreikurs puts across, which is - "The courage to be imperfect".
Once you get the courage, you will become more confident and focus on the experience that you get rather than being afraid of committing errors. This will ultimately give you the real pleasure of becoming successful in whatever task you perform in life.
Here I sign off with a quote by Cheryl Cole that offers a new and positive approach towards mistakes -- I've learned so much from my mistakes... I'm thinking of making some more. Carry this attitude in mind, and help yourself in bettering your personality.