How to learn from mistakes
If you want to learn from mistakes, you have to rethink your attitude towards failure. Photo: iStock.com/BartekSzewczyk.

5 Tips how to learn from mistakes

There are two types of people. Those who are sensitive to mistakes and give up immediately and those who emerge from them all the stronger. Here you will learn why failures are completely normal in life and how you can learn from mistakes.

When observing successful people, we often tend to say that they are lucky or have a good hand. The reason is relatively simple: by doing this, we are stealing ourselves from responsibility. After all, the others were lucky and we weren’t.

Unfortunately – or fortunately – life isn’t that easy. The moment of chance and a little luck in everyday life certainly also play a role. But the reason why some people are happier and more satisfied is often completely different. Successful people have insatiable levels of motivation and self-discipline. They always have their goal in mind and hold on to it, no matter what.

For successful people, mistakes are an integral part of life. They are neither bad nor dramatic to them, nor do they have anything to do with happiness or unhappiness for such people. They don’t even think about failing, they just do their thing.

There is only growth outside of the comfort zone. So when you do things that you normally don’t do and thus grow beyond yourself. However, it should be logical that there are also risks where you have never been before, which can lead to errors. How can you be sure of mastering something that you are trying to do for the first time? Therefore, mistakes don’t have to be automatically bad. You don’t want to believe that?

The best mistakes in human history

One of the best examples of the importance of not giving up on failure for the first time is the invention of the light bulb. It took Thomas Alva Edison a whopping 9,000 attempts before his invention worked. When his colleague wanted to give up after 1,000 attempts with the words “We failed”, Edison replied one of his most famous sentences.

“I didn’t fail – I discovered 1,000 ways that didn’t work.”

Thomas Alva Edison

A similarly serious mistake occurred in 1492 when Christopher Columbus wanted to make his way to Asia. Unfortunately, his planning was based on the information provided by the geographer Poseidonios, who had calculated the circumference of the earth a fifth too short.

The invention of the light bulb resulted from learning from mistakes
The result of many mistakes: The invention of the light bulb.

Coupled with a second mistake that caused Columbus to incorrectly convert the nautical miles, he believed that Asia was closer than it actually was. The result is known to all of us: In the end, it did not reach Asia, but the continent of America, which was previously undiscovered by Europeans.

The moral of both stories: mistakes not only happen, they are sometimes necessary. And in very few cases do we know where our supposed failures can lead us in the long term. It is therefore extremely important to mentally anchor a confident handling of mistakes.

If Edison had let himself be demotivated by his co-worker, or if Columbus had turned around because of the approaching mutiny of his crew; our history would have been completely different.

How to reduce the risk of failure

Proper planning

Before you learn how to best deal with mistakes, there are a few principles you should remember about how to avoid most of them. Sounds easier than done? It isn’t.

One of the main reasons we fail in life or why things go wrong is often a lack of planning. It’s not about neatly calculating every small project on the whiteboard, but simply about briefly checking the basics and having a rough timetable in mind.

If you have a great idea, it isn’t advisable to wait too long to implement it. Ideas should be approached while you are really passionate about them. Nevertheless, you should briefly think about possible risks and sleep over them first.

If the idea still burns in you the next morning, you should create an effective plan.

The right amount

In particular, highly motivated people (“makers”) usually have thousands of ideas and projects in their heads. They often don’t really know where to start. Because of this, they quickly tend to want to implement too many of these ideas at once.

As difficult as it may be for you: Try to concentrate on one thing or a few things and work through your goals consistently one after the other, if you cannot delegate them.

It doesn’t help you at all if, for example, you put 25 percent of your energy into four different projects and therefore make little or no progress. Set priorities and try to focus the energy available to you on as few goals as possible at the same time. This way, you are much more likely to notice possible risks than if you are distracted by something else.

The right social environment

Whether you are studying, have a business idea or have a sporting ambition: It doesn’t matter what your goal may be, pay attention to who you spend your time with. There is hardly anything more unnecessary than people in your personal environment who constantly want to persuade you that you cannot do something.

Instead, surround yourself with positive and well-disposed people. People who either pursue their own goals or even have the same goals as you. The risk of failing with such people by your side is many times less than with people who are just waiting for that to happen.

Optimistic people who can understand your striving can support you with their own experiences and point out risks. Therefore, use the experience of these people who are by your side. In this way you can prevent a large part of potential mistakes.

Learning from mistakes made easy

Admitting mistakes

Making a mistake or suffering a failure is part of life, you have already experienced that. However, it becomes problematic if you do not want to admit the mistake at all. Of course, you shouldn’t give up too quickly, but sometimes this is exactly what you need to do.

Ask yourself if you really still have a chance or if this round (not the whole game) is simply lost. Not admitting mistakes can cost you a lot of time if you stick to your plan even though it actually failed. Even if it hurts sometimes, be honest with yourself. Learn to recognize when it’s time to admit defeat.

Be self-critical of yourself

Making a mistake is one thing, acknowledging it is another. The next level, however, is to be able to be so self-critical that you can admit to yourself when you‘ve screwed up something.

Learning self-critically from mistakes
If you want to avoid mistakes, you have to be self-critical.

This leads us to the topic that we already addressed at the very top of the introduction. It is easy and convenient to seek the cause of failure in bad luck or fate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help you at all. You will never grow with this way of thinking, because you constantly assume that failures are solely due to the environment and others.

Analyze the situation as objectively as possible. Was it really bad luck that the wrong questions came up in the exam? Or is it more like that you have just learned too little?

Once you have identified the reasons for your mistake, there are exactly two options. Either you work on these reasons to be better prepared next time. Or you realize that you are on the wrong track and should actually be doing something else.

It takes something to be able to admit such things. This is especially true if you have always held others responsible for everything in life. But you will see that you will get a lot further with this attitude.

Accept mistakes and plan for them

In our society, mistakes are often stigmatized. In many areas of our life, where everything is trimmed for performance and perfection, it seems that mistakes simply shouldn’t happen at all.

This view is wrong. People are not perfect, none of us are. Mistakes happen and are part of life. Instead of seeing them as things that simply shouldn’t happen, you should get into the habit of seeing mistakes as an important component and, above all, as a necessity.

Expect mistakes, be happy about them if they are not life-threatening. Because with every mistake that you make and analyze, you get better and stronger. By making mistakes in your life positive in this way, you are removing their negative influence on your mood.

Act confidently

Are you one of those people who – it feels like – constantly make mistakes? Attention. If you answer yes to these questions, there is a problem that we urgently need to work on. What is meant is not the problem that you keep making mistakes, but your inner attitude.

There is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to which things that you talk yourself into long enough also occur because you think about them all the time and thus unconsciously work towards them. If you make a disproportionate number of mistakes, it could possibly be because this just happens because you are constantly afraid of making mistakes.

Change your attitude by sharpening your self-confidence. Use the principle of self-fulfilling prophecy in your favor. Instead, tell yourself how good you actually are and that you can do this and that with your left hand. You will be surprised how much the right attitude plays a role and how much the inner attitude influences your own mistake rate.

Take a deep breath and carry on

Get in the habit of not dealing with mistakes for too long. After you recognize a mistake, take a moment to discuss the reasons. So many times you can avoid making the same mistake again in the future. But then you should leave it at that.

The worst thing you can do is get upset for days about the failure or blame yourself. You’re doing yourself a disservice and it only gnaws at your self-confidence.

Take failure for what it is in the first place. As a necessary evil of life that you can grow from if you want to.

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