There’s no easy answer on how to learn from your mistakes that will work every time, though chapters have been written about it in classic books like The Road Less Traveled, and opportunities to address the topic have been missed in others, like The Four Agreements. However, there are some strategies you can use to learn from your mistakes that will work in various situations most of the time. When you’re trying to learn from your mistakes, consider the following:
Reframe Your MistakesFirst, use reframing to stop thinking of your mistakes as failures. They can be more accurately described as opportunities for learning—people generally learn more from mistakes than they learn from successes. With each mistake, you can learn valuable information that can be used for future success.
Be ForgivingNext, maintain perspective and don’t take mistakes too seriously. Blaming others for our mistakes can be a defense mechanism for those who are harsh with ourselves when we mess up—we stay in denial because we can’t take our own harsh self-condemnation. Be forgiving. Just changing your outlook on this can make it less threatening to recognize when you’re responsible or partially responsible for things going other than you’d planned. And that makes you more able to learn from your mistakes.
See What You Can ChangeRather than thinking of who is more responsible for a situation—you or another person—look at the situation as a whole in terms of what you can change. If you view taking responsibility through the lens of personal control—what can you change next time, what do you have control over?—makes it an empowering experience to learn from your mistakes.
Look BeyondLook at other sides of the same situation. How do different people in the situation feel. How might things have gone differently if you’d made different choices? Look at the situation in different ways. Play with it. And see what you can learn for next time.
Ask QuestionsAsk for impartial opinions. Have a few trusted friends who will tell you the truth, and who can see things from both sides, and ask them what they see. Sometimes we’re too close to a situation to make sense of it at first, but an observer who isn’t so emotionally attached, and who can deliver their opinion with love and tact, is what we need to help us learn from our mistakes.