How To Actually Learn From Your Mistakes: 8 No Bullsh*t Tips!

How many times in your life have you vowed that you’ll never make the same mistake again, only to find yourself doing the exact same thing years, months, weeks, days, or even just a matter of hours later?

As humans, we tend to have good intentions. When we get things wrong, no matter if it’s just a small mistake, or a pretty spectacular one, we promise ourselves that we’re going to be better in future. And we really mean it.

But time passes and our memory of the mistake fades, and before we know it, we’re doing the exact same thing all over again.

We sometimes make the same small mistakes every day without even really noticing. But when we repeat the big ones, we kick ourselves for it, wishing we’d learned our lesson the first time around.

So, how can you actually learn from your mistakes, both big and small?

How can you take on board the things life is teaching you every single day?

Let’s look at the bright side.

Think about what the concept of a mistake means to you. When you hear ‘mistake,’ do you automatically think ‘failure’?

So many people do, when mistakes are actually an inevitable part of life. They are one of the primary ways that human beings can learn and move forwards.

We all learn through trial and error. Getting things wrong is how we figure out how to get them right next time around. Sure, sometimes we get things right first time, but more often than not we need a practice run or two.

If you can look at your mistakes like that, you’ll soon start to realize how much you can learn from them, and be more willing to take those lessons on board, rather than stubbornly resisting them.

You’ll also be able to live your life a little more daringly.

If you can frame mistakes in a positive light, you still won’t be going out and making them on purpose, but you’ll be less afraid of the “what if.” Because you know that if you get things wrong, you’ll be just fine.

You’ll be more willing to take risks in life if you’re not scared of making mistakes.

How To Learn From Your Mistakes

Here are a few tips for making the most of the lesson each mistake teaches you, so that you’re always making new mistakes, rather than just repeating your old ones time and time again.

1. Recognize your mistake.

You can’t learn from a mistake if you never acknowledge that it’s happened in the first place.

If we refuse to recognize and accept where we’ve gone wrong, we’re doomed to make the same mistakes all over again.

So, the first step to learning from your mistakes is to own up to them, even if it’s just to yourself. Don’t try to shift the blame onto someone or something else, or make excuses.

Yes, there might have been extenuating circumstances, but you still need to accept that you were at fault, and perhaps tell the people who your mistake affected what you did wrong.

If you worry about coming across as weak or incompetent, just think about how you see people who are clearly trying to cover up a mistake they’ve made. You probably don’t see them in a positive light.

But if you saw them own up to a mistake they’d made, you’d probably respect them for their honesty, and trust that they’d learned their lesson once and for all.

So, swallow your pride and accept the blame.

Don’t be tempted to externalize the blame, saying it was down to the weather, your printer, the traffic, your kids…

No matter what happened, there’s often (though not always) something you could’ve done to prevent it, and you need to accept that so you can be better prepared for the things life throws at you in future.

2. Give yourself a break.

Accepting the blame for something doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up about it. You need to go easy on yourself, as we all make mistakes now and again. It’s only human.

We are our own worst critics, but you shouldn’t be saying anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend.

Yes, you’d probably be honest with your best friend about the fact that they’d messed up. But you wouldn’t tell them that their one mistake at work makes them a terrible person. Be as kind and fair to yourself as you would to them.

3. Think about what you could’ve done differently.

You don’t need to berate yourself, but you also shouldn’t just sweep this under the rug and forget about it. If you do, you’ll be on the fast track to making the same mistake all over again.

Take some time to think. What went wrong? What could you do differently in the future?

What could you have done to prevent the issue from arising in the first place?

Reflect on exactly what you’ve learned from this mistake and think about how you could react if a similar situation were to present itself again.

Writing all this down can be helpful as it can mean you really take it all in. Understanding your mistakes is key, otherwise you’ll never learn from them.

4. Think about the silver linings.

Okay, so there aren’t always silver linings. But you’ll sometimes find them where you’d least expect to.

Did the mistake you made open any doors?

There might be something you can salvage from the situation, which will help you not to lose heart.

This can help to put things in perspective. Sure, some mistakes are life-altering, but the vast majority won’t be, and life still goes on.

5. Stop striving for perfection.

If the only thing you’ll accept from yourself is perfection, you’re setting yourself up to fail from the very beginning.

Making mistakes should teach you that no one’s perfect, and that life would be very boring if we didn’t mess up now and again.

Focus on continually growing and learning, but never on being perfect.

6. Make some changes.

Now you’ve accepted and analyzed your mistake, it’s time to look to the future.

Use what you’ve learned about the roots of your mistakes to help you make changes in your life.

Think about what you need to have in place so that you’re ready for anything, whilst accepting that you can never predict what’s coming round the corner.

Make plans wherever you can, but be ready to be flexible. Think about where you might need to make changes or compromises so that you can reach your end goals.

If you can, track your behavior so you can see whether you’re on course to make the same mistake, or have managed to turn things around.

If you’re worried you might not stick to your new plan, do what you can to help yourself say goodbye to the excuses and start seeing results.

Over-prepare if necessary to make it as easy as possible to stick to the plan when it comes to the moment of truth.

7. Share what you’ve learned.

There’s no better way of really learning a lesson than sharing it with other people.

It’ll really cement your new habits, as well as benefitting others.

8. Let it go.

By now, you’ve spent more than enough time reflecting on your mistake. So, it’s time to put it behind you.

You’ve taken the blame, but you don’t need to hold onto it and let it weigh you down.

Look forwards with optimism, knowing you’ve faced up to what you’ve done, learned your lesson, and will be prepared next time.

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Life is just one long exercise in trial and error, and you’ll make big and small mistakes every day.

But consciously learning from those mistakes is the key to making sure you achieve all your goals and make a difference to your life and to the world.

You’ve got a lot of mistakes still ahead of you, but so much success to come too.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.