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How to Learn from Your Mistakes

by Scot Chadwick

If you’re human, it’s safe to assume you have made some blunders in your life. So what did you learn from your mistakes? Every wrong turn can teach a lesson if you’re looking for it.

Sadly, many people do not benefit from their errors. But you can be different by taking a lesson from your missteps! You could even learn from the mistakes of others. American first lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Mistakes can be learning experiences if you take the time and effort to evaluate them. Be willing to change and grow. Look for ways to improve yourself.

What Is a Mistake?

A mistake is doing or saying the wrong thing, or not doing or saying the right thing. You can make a mistake by doing something you should not have or by neglecting to do what would have been helpful or right at the time.

Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. They might come from a single moment of exhaustion or from a habit of procrastination. Some might be minor with little or no consequences, while others might have serious ramifications. Whatever the case, now is the time to address the root issues, learn from your mistakes, and change your future.

Identify the Causes of Your Mistake

We all make mistakes for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Inattention: carelessness or sloppiness due to negligence, distraction, or forgetfulness.
  • Ignorance: lack of knowledge about the issue.
  • Inability: lack of skill perhaps due to lack of training or lack of effort.
  • Indecision: inability to resolve which is the right path.
  • Imprudence: making the wrong choice due to miscalculation, misunderstanding, or recklessness.

Thankfully, you can correct these issues with a bit of effort. As the adage affirms, live and learn! Determine the root causes behind your mistakes and take action to eliminate them.

Determine the root causes behind your mistakes and take action to eliminate them.

Analyze the timeline of events that led to the error. Look for even the smallest things that might have contributed to the problem that you might not have noticed before. When did things begin to go wrong?

Monitor your performance more carefully. You could collect data such as how you use your time, the circumstances in which you need to take action or the conversations you have with people who support you in your pursuit of success.

Accept and even seek out criticism. Your mistakes and their causes might be more obvious to others. Ask them for their perspective on the issue. What did they see happen? How might they explain the error? Clarify your situation so you know what to change for next time. Now would be a good time to set up accountability for this area if you haven’t already.

Modify Your Approach

After you have identified the causes behind your mistake, consider these kinds of questions to see what you need to change:

What will you do differently next time?

  • What can you do to decrease distractions and increase your attentiveness?
  • What reminders could you use to help you remember when to do what you said you would do?
  • What do you need to learn to assist with your progress?
  • What skills do you need to practice so you can succeed next time?
  • What can you do to make better decisions at the right time?
  • What can you do to avoid obstacles and undesirable outcomes?

You might conclude, “I know what the problem is, but I don’t know how to fix it.” Then you will probably want to work closely with your accountability partner or another expert that could help you identify possible solutions. If the situation is complex, focus on fixing one thing at a time.

What will you do differently next time?


You will make errors in life, but don’t let them rule you. Choose to learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward to your goal. Resolve not to repeat the same mistake. Have a sense of urgency to correct the issue and help others avoid your mistakes.

Find the courage to continue. After you have reflected upon your past performance, keep moving toward success. Your past mistakes can help you focus on doing and saying the right things at the right time. Live and learn!

Originally published on May 20, 2019

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