Quit Complaining and Start Learning from Your Mistakes

Theodore Roosevelt

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.

The Benefits of Making Mistakes

On the surface, some mistakes might seem like the end of the world, however, below the surface they present you with the perfect opportunity to learn, to grow and to improve yourself.

Think back to all the mistakes you made in life and consider how they have strengthened your character and ability. Consider the plethora of skills that your mistakes have taught you, and also how they have shaped your knowledge, personality, your social development and your life experience.

Mistakes are valuable. However, for them to be of value, you must first see them as a beneficial and critical part of your life that you cannot avoid and must instead embrace with an open heart and open mind. Who knows, your biggest mistakes could end up turning into your most glorious victories, as long as you are open to learning and growing from the experience.

The Dangers of Dwelling on Mistakes

Often when mistakes are made, there is always a tendency to dwell upon them, to regret them, or to loathe them. This is how many people instinctively respond to mistakes, however, this shouldn’t be how you respond to mistakes.

Dwelling upon mistakes will diminish your self-confidence and your creative self-expression. It will affect your performance and productivity, and make you feel absolutely miserable. Moreover, when you dwell on mistakes this can trigger the habits of procrastination and perfectionism, as well as a plethora of emotions such as anger, stress, worry, fear, and frustration. This is certainly no way to live. And considering that mistakes are actually a positive and transformative force in your life, you can see how many people have it all wrong.

This habit of dwelling pessimistically upon mistakes often stems back to your childhood when you were incorrectly taught to avoid making mistakes, or when you did make them your parents or guardians would most likely treat mistakes as a negative and unwanted part of life. Of course, your experience might have been different, however in all likelihood mistakes weren’t viewed as a positive and beneficial part of growing up.

The Value of Making Mistakes

Admit Your Mistakes

You might have been conditioned during childhood to hide your mistakes so that nobody else could criticize, judge or embarrass you for making it. On the surface, this might make you feel a little better. However, below the surface, the mistake you made will eat you up with guilt.

More often than not, when you make a mistake, psychologically the best thing for you to do is to admit that you made the mistake and take full responsibility for resolving things. Not only will this gain you the respect of your peers, it will also give you peace of mind.

You made a mistake, and now you are responsible for fixing things and learning from your experience so that you can do better next time. This is how things should be. However, often people won’t admit their mistakes, and they certainly won’t learn from their experience. And as a result, they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again until critical lessons are finally learned.

Be at Peace with Your Mistakes

Being at peace with your mistakes means that you are comfortable with your mistake and ready to learn what you can from your experience. However, in order to reach this place in your life, you must take to heart a few things.

First of all, remember that the path to your goals is naturally riddled with mistakes; with errors of judgment; with unforeseen circumstances, and with miscalculated decisions. This is just a natural part of life. We’re not perfect, and that’s a fact. Nobody is perfect and everybody will make mistakes. They are what makes life interesting and fun. In fact, the bigger mistakes you end up making, the bigger the lessons you will learn, and the more you will grow as a result, which will provide you with a greater array of life experience and wisdom.

It is, however, important to remember that you are not your mistakes. Mistakes are what you do, and not who you are. You must not get this mixed up.

Secondly, when you make a mistake it’s important to realize that you are in fact making progress. Mistakes are not a step back, but rather a side-step that will help you to see the path ahead with greater clarity as you keep moving forward. They are there to help you, and to help balance you along your journey towards your desired outcomes.

Success is a result of ongoing failure and mistakes. Nobody has achieved anything worthwhile in this world without failing greatly and making a ridiculous amount of mistakes along the way. Your journey will be no different. Therefore be at peace with that, and accept that mistakes are simply a natural part of life.

The Advantages of Making Mistakes

Shift Your Perspective About Mistakes

Stop viewing mistakes as something that’s negative and hurtful. Instead, begin viewing mistakes as opportunities to reevaluate the path you are taking towards your goals.

Is it possible that a mistake could help you find a short-cut that you previously overlooked? Or maybe it’s possible it might allow you to learn an important skill that will be vital for your future as you make progress along your journey. In fact, if anything, mistakes are a perfect opportunity to grow stronger and more resilient.

Resilience is something that will help you to keep pushing forward despite the obstacles and setbacks in your way. And the more mistakes you make, the more resilient you will become, as long as you proactively learn from these mistakes and adapt your approach accordingly.

Mistakes are also opportunities to correct your behavior. Maybe what you’re doing isn’t going to work out long-term. Therefore the mistake you made today might very well alert you to this problem. Correct it, and you will be in a much more advantageous position in the future.

Mistakes present opportunities to analyze your decisions. Sometimes the decision you make might be out of line with the goals you want to achieve. A mistake will alert you to the fact that you are on the wrong path. Therefore use it to redirect yourself back onto the right path.

When you make mistakes, they do two things really well. For starters, they should indicate to you that you are in fact challenging yourself. Whenever you challenge yourself, this means that you’re growing and learning something new. Mistakes also indicate that there is room for improvement. And this is a very positive sign. If there was no room for growth or improvement, then what’s the point of doing anything at all. We would be where we want to be and life would be stagnant. Hope for improvement provides us with something to work towards — something to strive for that will reward us for our efforts.

Finally, you must come to understand that mistakes are simply a part of the learning process — they are forms of practice and training that we do on a daily basis in preparation for the attainment of our big objective.

Like a boxer who trains every day for a big fight, you are also training every day to achieve that big goal. And like a boxer you will get hit and fall down. In fact, you may even slip numerous times and fall flat on your face.

Yes, you made a mistake, but you also got up and kept moving forward. Your eyes are on the big goal, and not on the mistake you made in the moment. Yes, of course, embrace the mistake and learn from it, but don’t let it discourage you from the big picture you are working towards.

Be Careful While Making Mistakes

When you make a mistake it’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of trying to justify your mistake. Mistakes must be embraced not justified or rationalized. Unless you take ownership of your mistakes, you will never truly learn the lessons you must master to move forward in this area of your life.

It’s also dangerous to ignore any mistakes you make. Your mistakes are like sign-posts that help angle you in the right direction. By ignoring these sign-posts, you are risking getting side-tracked. And the longer it takes you to realize this, the more effort it will eventually take to get yourself back on the right track in the future.

On the surface, mistakes don’t feel good. As a kid you were probably taught that mistakes were bad, however, as an adult, you must never indulge in self-pity or by feeling regretful that you made a mistake. This kind of behavior is never helpful and will only hurt your growth and development in the long-term.

When you make a mistake, it’s critical that you refrain from blaming others and even blaming yourself for the mistake. Just take responsibility for it, do something about it, learn from it, and move on.

Finally, realize that you are absolutely wasting your time when you begin complaining about your mistake or making excuses for it. This defensive-minded behavior is natural for most people, however, it cannot be natural for you. Quit complaining or making excuses. Instead, gain feedback about the mistake and make your own observations that will help you to learn from this experience to improve your decisions and actions in the future.

Making Mistakes is Helpful

Learn from Mistakes

Mistakes should immediately indicate to you that something went wrong. As a result, you must be ready and prepared to deal with this situation. However, most importantly you must be ready to learn from the situation in order to improve your choices, decisions, and actions in the future. Here is a four-step process that will allow you to thoroughly learn from the mistakes you make:

Step 1: Shift Your Perspective

Once a mistake is made, it’s critical that you immediately view it as an opportunity to strengthen your resolve. In fact, this is also a perfect time to ponder. Something obviously went wrong, and you must now not only come to understand what happened, but you must also fully appreciate and accept the situation you are in.

Take time to ponder your mistake and ask yourself:

What did I want to do?

What went wrong?

It’s important that you don’t exaggerate the circumstances by blowing the mistake out of proportion. Simply see it for what it is and approach it from a problem-solving perspective.

At this time it’s also helpful to begin shifting your perspective about the mistake you just made to help spot potential opportunities that might now be available as a result of these unexpected events. Ask yourself:

How is this mistake helpful?

What am I grateful for?

What is the opportunity here?

Step 2: Explore What Went Wrong

The only way to work through a mistake is to gain a deep and thorough understand of what went wrong and how it might have potentially changed things. Ask yourself:

Where did I go wrong?

What can I learn from this?

What events led up to this mistake?

How could the mistake have potentially been avoided?

How has this mistake changed me?

How has this mistake shaped how I think?

Step 3: Develop Plan of Action

Now that you have a good understanding of the mistake, it’s time to draw up a plan of action that outlines how you will do things differently in the future as a result of this mistake. Ask yourself:

What must I do differently?

How would others approach this?

How can I get started?

How must I avoid repeating the same mistake again in the future?

Taking the time to reflect upon the answers to these questions will help you to gain valuable knowledge that may be absolutely indispensable as you make progress along your journey towards the attainment of your goals and objectives.

Step 4: Identify Skills and Resources

The final step of this process is to consider any additional skills or resources you might need moving forward that might help you to avoid or manage similar mistakes in the future far more effectively. Ask yourself:

What skills might be helpful to learn the next time I’m working through a similar mistake?

What resources might be of value that will help me to handle similar mistakes in the future far more effectively?

How to Learn from a Mistake

Prepare for Future Mistakes

Because you now understandably accept the fact that mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable, it’s probably a good idea to think ahead into the future and begin preparing for mistakes in advance.

You won’t be able to avoid mistakes altogether, however when you do end up making them you can minimize their impact and also work through them in a far more efficient manner. Preparation is the key. Here are some ideas:

Use Solution Oriented Thinking

Solution oriented thinking means that you are constantly thinking a few steps ahead using foresight and considering all the different scenarios that may come about as you work towards your goals.

At the same time, you’re also reflecting on past experiences and past mistakes using hindsight — making sure that you are bringing lessons from the past to help you in the present moment.

Take Risks

When you make mistakes you open yourself up to the opportunity of learning something new that will help you make deeper progress along your journey. However, to make a lot of mistakes, and to learn as much as you possibly can along your journey requires that you take plenty of risks and even make some bad decisions.

Without risk-taking, you will most likely not make many mistakes, but you won’t grow either, and it’s this growth that you will need to help you learn the lessons necessary to attain your goals and objectives. Yes, of course, some of these risks will be a direct result of bad decisions. However, many bad decisions lead to experience, and it’s only through bad decisions that we come to understand what works or doesn’t work — which eventually leads to good decisions.

Fail Forward Fast

Making mistakes means that you’re walking a fine line between success and failure. However, it’s often the people who have failed the most that are eventually rewarded with the greatest successes.

These people dared to fail — dared to fail forward fast by making as many mistakes as quickly as possible so that they could learn from their experience and adjust their actions accordingly. It is after all the person who learns the rules of how to play the game the quickest who has the greatest chance of winning in the end.

Be Open-Minded

When a mistake is made, it’s critical that you learn to stay open-minded and flexible in your approach. An open mind will expose you to potential opportunities that you might not have been aware of before.

A flexible approach will allow you to adapt at a moment’s notice to sudden mistakes that you weren’t expecting. Add on top of this a grateful heart, and you will have the ingredients you need that will help you to take full advantage of any mistakes that are made along your journey towards the attainment of your goals and objectives.

How to Prepare for Future Mistakes

Cultivate Optimism

Optimism is an absolute necessity when it comes to keeping yourself focused and motivated when mistakes are made. However, along with optimism you also need some courage to step into uncertainty; you need curiosity to ask the right kinds of questions that will help you get the answers you seek; you also need persistence and determination to fight through a variety of problems that may have sprung up as a result of your mistake; and you will need a little humor to get you through those tough moments when all appears lost and you can’t seem to find the answers to your problems.

Above all else, you will need to be self-reliant. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask other people for help or assistance. What it does mean is that you are resourceful enough to find whatever it is you need to work through the mistakes you made in the most productive manner possible.

Create Plan of Action

To work through future mistakes far more effectively, it’s important that you create a plan of action that will help improve your ability to solve problems and to think more objectively and creatively. It is therefore critical that you consistently read books that will help you to solve problems and think more creatively. Creativity can take you a long way and will help you to see things that others will never even imagine. In fact, a mistake can immediately be turned into an opportunity if you think about it in a unique way.

Also think ahead by developing a conscious plan of how you will respond to mistakes, and also how you will avoid repeating the same mistakes over again. This might sound very trivial. However, it’s absolutely critical that you take all of this into consideration because one day you will make a monumental mistake that will crush the life out of most people. However, because you were fully prepared and ready for the mistake, you are able to successfully work through it and turn the mistake into an opportunity to improve your circumstances for the better.

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

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Six Steps to Learn from a Mistake

Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.