How To Learn From Mistakes

by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Lifestyle Columnist

Published in Lifestyle on 9th January, 2019

Human beings are imperfect, and from time to time we make mistakes.

These mistakes can leave us feeling embarrassed, ashamed, angry or disappointed. Because of feelings like this, we often try to avoid making mistakes to begin with.

learning from mistakes

However, due to our nature, we can't avoid making them completely. Even the most careful people will still slip up from time to time.

Consequently, it's important to change the way we view those mistakes. Rather than being upset by our flaws, or the messes we make, seeing mistakes as steps towards improvement can really be a huge help. Let's explore the mistakes so many of us make, what they can teach us and how we can change them from embarrassing situations into learning processes.

We All Make Mistakes

We're all imperfect. No matter how long you've been doing something, it's still possible to slip up and make a mistake. Whether that mistake is small or large doesn't really matter in the grand scheme, but the way you react to it can determine whether or it becomes a growing experience.

If you turn away from mistakes, avoid doing certain things to keep from making them, or ignore their existence, it can save you from discomfort. However, you'll be a lot less likely to learn and grow, forever living within the means of your personal comfort zone.

Why Avoiding Mistakes Doesn't Help

The desire to avoid mistakes can drive us away from attempting to do things we may want to. Things like starting a new career, engaging in an activity you may enjoy, or in extreme cases even keep you from leaving home whenever possible.

However, the problem with that is while you might be comfortable, you aren't able to grow as a person unless you give yourself the chance to branch out. Imagine wanting to join a local theater, but being too afraid to make a fool of yourself. It may feel safer to never try, but your fear will only grow the more you avoid the source.

What Can We Learn From Mistakes?

What makes mistakes important is that we can use them to learn some fantastic lessons. Lessons that can make us stronger and smarter as people, and more prepared when similar kinds of mistakes pop up. Having the experience can really allow you to grow a lot as a person.

Below, we're going to discover some of the important lessons you can look for when a mistake is made. They can often help to guide the direction you should go in next, or help you to build a better strategy if there's something you're having trouble achieving.

Better Strategies

Imagine you're trying to start your own business. It's not an easy thing to achieve, and it's actually not common that people are extremely successful for the long term on their first attempt. There are many out there who make attempts, fail, learn what to do better and start anew.

learning from mistakes strategies

The same is true for you. If you try to start a business and it doesn't work out, you can regroup and try again. You don't only get one shot to make things work out, so you don't have to to it perfectly! Just give it your all, and learn from the mistakes that come along, as they can help guide you to success.


Many beat themselves up for making mistakes, playing the blame game and making themselves feel even worse. On the other hand, others choose to ignore their mistakes and behave as though they are infallible. The ideal place to be is somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum.

Being able to accept yourself as you are, mistakes and all, is a key aspect of overall happiness. It keeps you from being over-confident while allowing you to understand that mistakes happen. There's nothing wrong with recognizing the situation, and working to correct it without punishing yourself further.

Deciding What We Want

Moving through life is a lot like exploring a jungle. There are a few large, clear paths, but they aren't the most exciting. In addition, there are paths that have become overgrown, dead ends and those you'll need to make yourself.

Forging your own path can be difficult, and here and there you're likely to find that some paths just don't work. However, the more you push ahead, the more rewarding the overall journey will be. By making mistakes, we can stumble into the paths we don't want, helping us to move in the direction we do want.

Facing Your Fears

We allow ourselves to grow when we face our fears, particularly when that fear is making mistakes. While they might feel like failures, mistakes are key points of growth, especially when we're exploring new experiences.

Think about that fear of joining a local theater. Imagine getting through that fear enough to go in for an audition, and messing up and not getting the part. It seems like a negative experience, but you now have more information to use for the next audition, which can then help you to become more successful over time.

Taking Responsibility

Making more mistakes can teach us the importance of taking responsibility for those mistakes. While it may sometimes feel like you need to distance yourself from them by blaming someone else, or the circumstances involved, it's often much better admit the mistake, apologize if you need to and then move forward.

Though it isn't easy, you're likely to find that accepting responsibility can help you to feel more in control, and it can help to move you past the embarrassment and into the process of learning from the mistake. Not only that, but the people around you will enjoy your presence more as well.

Remember That You're Human

Some of us can get so caught up in the desire to be perfect, but oftentimes it can be more of a hindrance than a help. We can sometimes feel trapped by the need to take on a task perfectly, which can cause us to become stuck in the planning stage rather than actually making an attempt.

learn from mistakes

So don't spend time waiting for the perfect idea, the perfect body, the perfect plot. Take what you have and move forward. Remember, you can always try again in new ways if it doesn't work out the first time!

How To Turn Mistakes Into Lessons

Focusing on learning from a mistake rather than wallowing in negative feelings isn't easy. It requires the ability to redirect your thinking and to notice what's going on inside you without judgment. However, it's entirely possible to do, and it gets easier the more you practice.

Here, we're taking a look into some tips you can use for keeping your mind on the lesson you gain from the mistake rather than ruminating on the mistake itself. Think about how you react when you've messed up in some way, and use the tips that relate to you most to improve.

Admit That Something Isn't Working

The first step is to recognize when something is off. This can be tricky to do if you tend to ignore your mistakes, or if you're taking a new path. When you don't have a clear image of what that path should look like, it can be harder to notice when something isn't quite right.

However, when you can see it, make sure to hit the pause button and admit to yourself that it isn't working. Then, you can start the process of finding a solution to the mistake rather than allowing it to carry on and become larger.

Take a Close Look At The Mistake

Once you've admitted the mistake, take some time to think about it. What happened? How did you feel? Why doesn't it work? As you're doing this, it's wise to avoid falling into a pit of negative emotions. Otherwise, you can end up just throwing a pity party.

If you're feeling badly about it, then take some time away from the situation if you can. Do something relaxing or fun and take your mind off what happened. Sometimes we need a little space from a mistake before we can take a more objective look into the situation and how it came about.

Consider What Happened To Cause It

At this point, it's worth thinking about what led up to the mistake. Was it simply that you didn't get enough sleep, or was there more to it? Oftentimes, there can be a serious of smaller decisions that resulted in the mistake. It can really depend on how large that mistake is.

how to learn from mistakes

As you're doing this, avoid placing the blame anywhere. Try to remain as objective as possible, as if you were just a spectator. Temporarily, looking at the problem from this viewpoint can help you to decrease negative feelings about it and focus more on the solution to the issue at hand.

Find The Lessons

Once you've analyzed the situation, you can start to look for solutions. In some cases, you may find that the solutions is simple, while in others it may be something more complicated that you need to take baby steps towards. What matters most is that you begin to move in the right direction.

If the solution seems large and difficult, remember that there is no time frame for many things. You can go as slowly as you need to, as long as you're progressing. Do what works best for you and makes you the most comfortable.

Use The Lessons

When you've thought up your solutions, it's time to actually work towards them. This can be the hardest part of all. Change isn't easy for any of us, and it can be even more difficult to deal with in the wake of a mistake you may feel badly about.

What's most important to remember is to keep going forward. You don't have to race anyone or try to do it all at once. Do what you need to, at the pace you need to go at. Focus on changes that will last for the long term, not the biggest changes you can make in the moment.

Check Your Progress

It can be useful to create measurable goals to help you with moving in the direction you want to go. That way you can keep track of your progress over time. In many cases, creating the good habits that build success are the most difficult.

In all honesty, start with something tiny. Let's say you want to run a marathon, but are very out of practice or out of shape. You can start with a simple walk around the block. If that's too much to keep up with, just jog in place for a minute every day. Set the habit, then slowly increase it to meet your goals.

Avoid Punishing Yourself

When we make mistakes, there are typically already consequences simply as a result of the problem. If you miss paying a bill, the bill becomes more expensive due to the balance forward. That consequence already exists, and there's no need to add onto it and make yourself feel worse.

humans take mistakes

Negative self-talk, self-blame and unnecessary punishment isn't going to fix anything. It's only going to leave you with deeper negative feelings and a greater fear of mistakes. Instead, learn from those mistakes, pay the larger bill and try to avoid making the mistake again in the future.

Remember The Process

Regardless of what the mistake is, remember that making the improvements needed to avoid that mistake is a process. You're not always going to catch the mistake, solve it and then move on perfectly right away. Sometimes you'll have to go through the process several times before it sticks.

No matter how many times you have to try to solve a problem, or how many different ways you have to go about it, remember to be gentle with yourself. Cruelness won't help you in the long run, it will only make you feel worse, and the process will become more difficult.

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