Effectively learn from your mistakes


We’ve all heard the advice, “Be sure to learn from your mistakes.” It’s one of the most common pieces of advice people throw around. There’s one thing that’s always bothered me about it though. Everyone talks about the importance of learning from your mistakes, but few people ever tell you how to do it.

Maybe you’ve experienced the same frustration with that piece of advice. Maybe you’ve been tempted to respond, “That’s great, and I really appreciate the advice, but what does that even mean?”

If you’ve ever wondered what learning from your mistakes looks like, I hope this post will help. When someone tells you to effectively learn from your mistakes, here’s what they mean:

1. Take a step back.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the frustrations and disappointments after making a mistake that it’s difficult to evaluate the situation objectively. By intentionally taking a step back from all of the emotions that come with mistakes, you’re able to find clarity in understanding what went wrong and learning from it.

2. Ask the right questions.

When mistakes happen, it’s tempting to blame others. It’s easy to ask: “Why did he do that?” or “Why did I trust her to take care of it?” However, if all of our questions and assessments revolve around other people, it will be impossible for us to ever truly learn from our mistakes. Asking the right questions means evaluating your role in the mistake. Is there something that you could have done better? Be sure to look at your own actions to learn and grow.

3. Seek the advice of others.

An outside perspective on the situation could be the most beneficial aspect of learning from our mistakes. This is why mentoring is so powerful. Many times, seasoned leaders have been through the exact situation or something similar. The difference is that they now have hindsight to offer. While seeking advice from a mentor is critical for learning from your mistakes, having a relationship where you seek insight on a regular basis could also prevent you from making the mistake in the first place.

4. Write down what you learned.

There will come a point in time where you see the light of day and resolve whatever mistake you’ve made. The worst thing you can do when that happens is to turn around and repeat the error! So be intentional about writing down what you learned after every mistake as a reminder and resource for future decisions. Whether it’s a journal or a “life lessons” folder in Evernote, keep track of your mistakes and what you’ve learned.

What other advice would you give to someone who’s wondering what it means to effectively learn from his or her mistakes?