How To Stop Making The Same Mistakes Over And Over (8 Effective Tips)

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Mistakes teach us lessons. They impart wisdom and allow us to make better choices in the future.

To grow, sometimes you need to make a mistake and learn from it.

However, some people get stuck in a cycle of repeating the same missteps.

When faced with a choice, they still choose the wrong path, and keep making the same mistakes over and over.

But why is that? What causes a person to look at a situation they know is bad for them and make the same error again?

In this article, we will explore the reasons why, and how to avoid making the same mistakes.

Often, this behavior is rooted in comfort even when it’s not mentally or emotionally healthy. You may also be making the same mistakes because of trauma or difficulties in life.

By the end of this article, we will seek to better understand the causes and explore solutions so you can learn from your mistakes and grow.

All of life is a journey, and good decision-making is but one step that will lead you closer to peace and happiness.

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you if you keep making the same mistakes over and over in life. You may want to try speaking to one via for quality care at its most convenient.

The Psychology Behind Repeating The Same Mistakes

The psychology of repeating mistakes is a complex topic that involves various cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors.

Understanding why you are making the same mistakes over and over can help you break these unhealthy patterns.

A willingness to learn, developing self-awareness, and seeking diverse perspectives will help you learn from past mistakes so you can make more informed, effective decisions.

Here are some key psychological factors involved in the repetition of mistakes:

Cognitive Biases

A cognitive bias is a deviation from objective thinking that often comes from shortcuts in decision-making. They allow us to process information quickly and efficiently so we can make immediate decisions when needed.

Cognitive biases can manifest in different ways, affecting how we interpret events, perceive information, and make decisions.

The issue with cognitive biases is that they aren’t always healthy. In fact, they’re often negative.

Cognitive biases may start forming in childhood, and then be modified by learning and life experiences, whether positive or negative, as you grow older.

Negative cognitive biases impair your decision-making skills, lead to flawed reasoning, and bias your perception of reality.

Identifying your negative cognitive biases can help you stop repeating past mistakes.

Confirmation Bias

People have a natural tendency to seek out and interpret information that aligns with their existing beliefs and decisions, whether positive or negative.

When you make a mistake, you may subconsciously look for evidence that supports your choice, even if it’s wrong. This may prevent you from recognizing and correcting your errors.

Overconfidence Bias

We often overestimate our knowledge, ability, and accuracy of our judgments.

If you are overconfident, you may be less likely to admit you were wrong. This leads you to repeat past mistakes because you won’t accept that your approach is flawed since you believe you are correct.

You may find yourself discarding outside information, such as advice from a professional, in favor of the information that you believe or that appeals to you.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

The sunk cost fallacy occurs when you continue to invest time, resources, and effort into a project or decision simply because you’ve already invested a lot.

You may recognize and understand the mistake, but not accept and change the mistake because you may feel that it would be a waste of resources.

One must learn when it’s time to cut their losses when they’ve identified a better course of action. Sometimes you just have to let go.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias causes you to view past events as more predictable than they actually were.

When a mistake is made, you may convince yourself that you should have known better but you don’t identify how you should have known better.

That makes you more likely to repeat that mistake because you interpret a new situation through the lens of that old situation.

In truth, every situation is different, no matter how similar. There are always small details that can change the context of the experience.

Anchoring Bias

An anchoring bias occurs when you rely too heavily on the first piece of information that you encounter about the decision.

That first piece of information may be wrong. If you’re anchored to that wrong piece of information, refusing to let it go, then your decision-making is based on bad information, which leads you to repeat mistakes.

Availability Bias

This bias occurs when you give more weight to recent negative experiences or information than a change to correct those actions.

You may be more influenced by a mistake if that recent mistake is more vivid or intense because it is so present in your mind.

Habits And Conditioning

A habit is an automatic, ingrained behavior that can be difficult to break because you’ve repeated it so often.

If you’ve established a mistake as a habit, you may find yourself repeating the mistake without conscious thought.

Classical conditioning may play a role. Certain triggers or environmental factors may lead you to repeat the same bad behavior or decision.

Emotional Factors

Emotions often lead to clouded judgment and impulsive decision-making. Strong emotions like excitement, anger, and fear often override rational thinking.

Furthermore, some people repeat mistakes because they are trying to avoid intense, uncomfortable emotions associated with facing the consequences of their actions or admitting fault.

You must learn to accept the discomfort of admitting fault or facing the consequences of your actions to ease your anxieties, communicate with the other people involved, and find the right way to make a better decision.

Fear Of Change

You may resist change because it’s uncomfortable or you may fear making a mistake. You may be able to see that a change is necessary to avoid repeating the mistake, but you avoid the choice to make a change.

A fear of change, the unknown, or failure can keep you locked in a cycle of familiar, unhealthy patterns.

Low Self-Esteem And Self-Worth

Individuals with low self-esteem and self-worth often believe they don’t deserve better things. Thus, they engage in self-sabotaging behavior, settle for less than they deserve, or choose to stay in negative situations.

You may need to work on boosting your low self-esteem and self-worth to break the cycle of self-sabotaging by repeating your mistakes.

Lack Of Self-Awareness

You may be unable to recognize a repeated mistake because of a lack of introspection or self-awareness.

A lack of self-awareness prevents you from recognizing unhealthy patterns so you can better understand your triggers and the motivations behind your decision-making.

Healthy self-awareness allows you to identify when you need help, regulate your emotions, and learn from your mistakes.

Social And Peer Pressure

Social influences may lead you to make choices that don’t align with your best interests and personal values.

You may conform to social influence because you desire social acceptance from the group. A lack of confidence may lead to a fear of rejection, influencing and reinforcing bad decision-making habits.

Peer pressure may also encourage social conformity. You may feel pressured to fit in with the group and maintain relationships with friends or peers who engage in harmful activities. That can result in continued participation in those activities, leading to repeated mistakes.

A great example is consuming alcohol. An alcoholic will likely find themselves relapsing if they continue to hang out with their drinking buddies because they want to fit in with the group.

Failure To Learn

Failing to learn from those past mistakes can significantly contribute to repeating them.

A person who fails to learn from their past mistakes often lacks awareness of the patterns and behaviors that lead up to them. They are unable to make better decisions because they don’t understand why their decisions aren’t working.

Repeated mistakes can become habitual when you don’t take the time to analyze why they occurred.

You should learn and grow from your mistakes. They are valuable learning opportunities because they can point to skills you need to develop and insights to avoid repeating the mistake.

If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you may stagnate in your personal growth and relationships, as your decisions will negatively affect the people around you, too.

Of course, not everyone learns from their mistakes. Sometimes they don’t realize they are making the same mistake.

Other times, the mistake might just be what they consider to be normal. For example, if you’ve only been in bad relationships, then you might believe that all relationships are going to be bad in some way.

Timing And Delayed Consequences

Mistakes are easy to repeat when there is not a direct consequence to the choice. For example, you may not exercise and eat healthy today, but that later comes back around to harm your health in a decade or two.

Another example may be taking a loan out now without considering how to pay it back in the future. You may find that it’s difficult to break those old, negative habits to replace them with new, positive habits.

Delayed consequences may prevent you from connecting your actions to the negative outcomes.

Lack Of Decision-Making Skills

Some people simply lack necessary decision-making skills like critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. The lack of these skills makes it much harder to examine your own decisions, recognize where the problem is, and find a solution to make better choices.

Developing your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities will improve your decision-making skills. 

The Neuroscience Of Repeating Mistakes

In addition to the psychological factors of repeating mistakes, there are neuroscience factors that may play a role.

To clarify, neuroscience is the specific science of the structure and function of the nervous system and brain. Understanding the physical responses of the brain to psychological and emotional stimuli helps scientists find treatments for mental health issues.

In the context of repeating mistakes, certain physical processes of the brain may be related to the emotional processes that drive this kind of decision-making.

Reward System

The brain’s reward system is driven by the release of dopamine. That dopamine reward plays a crucial role in motivating behavior.

When you receive a reward by experiencing pleasure from a particular action, whether positive or negative, your brain reinforces the neural pathways related to that action.

That can lead to repetitive mistakes if the brain associates a particular behavior with a reward, even if the long-term consequences are negative.

Habit Formation

The brain is remarkable in its ability to form habits. Repeated behavior with an associated reward reinforces the neural pathways associated with the behavior.

That causes certain behaviors to become automatic as the brain subconsciously looks for those rewards. Thus, a habit is formed.

The region of the brain known as the basal ganglia is responsible for habit formation.

Stressful Emotions

Stress may cause you to repeat mistakes based on your habits. When under stress, your brain automatically seeks to lighten its overall load. Therefore, it defaults to established habits and long-term behaviors to create shortcuts and ease the load it’s currently under.

If those established habits happen to be negative, then you may subconsciously act on those negative habits.


Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to rewire itself which can work for or against you.

On the one hand, you can reinforce the neural pathways associated with good decision-making and the dopamine rewards that come with it.

On the other hand, you can do the same thing with negative habits and decisions.

You can affect the creation and disruption of these neural pathways with conscious, long-term effort.

Cognitive Control

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for executive functions such as decision-making, planning, and self-control. As a result, it plays a critical role in avoiding negative decision-making.

Impaired function of the prefrontal cortex, such as through neurological conditions or stress, can reduce the functioning of the prefrontal cortex which may then lead to poor choices and repeating mistakes.


A poor memory can lead to repeated mistakes if you cannot accurately recall the decisions leading up to the mistake. This reason may be more prevalent in people with mental health concerns that affect their memory like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and others.

How do you stop repeating mistakes?

The challenge of learning from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them is much easier when you have some kind of guideline.

The following steps will teach you how to analyze your behavior, set new goals, and introduce ways that you can change your behavior.

The process does not happen overnight. If you find that you aren’t making progress quickly—that’s okay! That’s normal.

The more you try, the easier it gets with better results.

1. Journal to track and assess your behavior.

Journaling is a powerful tool for self-assessment because it’s difficult to see yourself from the outside looking in.

By writing out your decisions, you essentially force yourself into thinking about why you did what you did so you can articulate the decisions that you made.

Journaling helps you develop a clearer understanding of your thought process so you can look for reasons you repeat mistakes over and over.

Journaling doesn’t have to be difficult or some giant production. All it takes is just a few minutes to sit down, write about what happened, consider the reasons that brought you to that decision, and plan how you can do it better next time.

This will also help you build self-awareness and improve your ability to self-assess.

You will also find that journaling is an excellent way to track your progress so you can celebrate your success.

2. Identify repeating patterns in your behavior.

Consider repeating patterns in your behavior by considering the outcomes that made you unhappy.

Start at the result of the bad decision and work your way backward. Look for specific reasons for the outcomes you no longer want to have.

For example:

– I got angry and then drunk to deal with it.

– Why?

– I had to visit my mother who’s mean to me.

Once you find your way from Point A to Point B, you can then figure out a different path.

In this example, if you have a bad relationship with your mother, so bad that it makes you angry enough that you want to drink, then it’s time to make some changes about how you approach that relationship.

Setting new boundaries by limiting your time and interactions with your mother may help you experience less intense negative emotions.

You could consider exercise as a replacement for drinking to vent off that angry energy from interacting with her. Or, you could do a combination of both to help cool your anger and make better decisions in managing it.

3. Learn from your mistakes.

Once you’ve identified the mistake and the reason for it, you will want to examine the cause closely so you can decide what needs to change.

Take some time to examine the cause of the mistake and dig into it. Be aware, this is not a reason to tear yourself down. Learning from your mistakes is one way to stop punishing yourself for being human.

Why do I keep repeating this mistake?

Is there some need that’s not being met?

Is there some stress that I’m not dealing with?

What kind of emotions am I feeling that influenced this bad decision?

But what if you can’t answer these questions? In that case, you’ll want to talk to a therapist to dive into your decision-making to try to find the cause of it. That cause may be rooted in trauma, childhood development, or other mental health issues that need to be addressed to change your behavior.

4. Seek outside feedback.

You may want to ask for help from trusted friends or family if you have them. If you don’t, a therapist can help. Or you may try asking someone you admire who seems to make good decisions of their own.

The idea is to get some outside feedback on the decisions you’re making and why. People who know you well are likely familiar with some of the quirks and differences in your perspective. An outsider may see things that you may be blind to because of your relation to the problem.

Take their words with a grain of salt. Their opinions may not be wholly accurate. Instead, just take them as a place to start your self-assessment.

5. Develop clear strategies and set goals.

Goals serve as a compass on your journey to success. Set specific, achievable goals that will help guide your decisions.

Avoid vague goals. Vagueness leaves the goal up to different interpretations which can cause you to move in different directions, which can cause confusion, which can mess up your path if you keep changing directions.

Coming back to our example to set some clear goals:

– I won’t drink when I’m angry.

– I will limit my time with my mother to one phone call a week.

– I will go for a walk or exercise for a half hour when I get angry.

Clear goals allow you to say, “Yes, I did that. I set out to do what I said what I was going to do, exactly.” That makes it easier to change your behavior because you can track your successes.

There may also be other measures you need to take to stay on course. For example, if you forget to take your medication, you may need to start taking them at a consistent time so you don’t forget. You may need to develop a new routine, like adding exercise or self-care to your schedule.

It may be that you just need to add new skills to help with your decision-making.

6. Be patient and persistent.

Patience and consistency are needed if you want to stop repeating mistakes. It takes time to unlearn bad habits and replace them with good habits.

The only way to make the progress you want is with consistency over a long period of time.

It’s okay if you stumble and mess up here and there. That’s totally normal and to be expected. Learn from the mistake, take it in your stride, and get back on the path you want to be on.

7. Cultivate and practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the act of being present in the moment. It can help you catch yourself before you make a bad decision.

Furthermore, mindfulness is beneficial for making better decisions because we often get swept up in the emotions of the moment. Then, you make a decision based on your emotions, which may be the kind of decision that leads to repeating your mistakes.

By staying present in the moment, you’re giving yourself a little time to pull apart your feelings, examine what you’re currently experiencing, and make a different choice. The less emotional charge behind your decision-making, the better your decisions will be.

Both positive and negative emotions may cause you to make bad decisions, repeatedly.

Negative emotions are easier to understand—you get angry, you yell, you’ve made a bad decision.

Positive emotions are a different ball of wax. Perhaps someone flirts with you, you find it flattering, you return the attention—but you have someone at home waiting for you.

8. Embrace a growth mindset.

“Growth mindset” is a phrase that is tossed around a lot with little explanation as to what it is.

Simply put, a growth mindset involves thinking differently about your failures. Every failure becomes a learning experience. It’s not something to necessarily dwell on and mourn for a long time.

Sure, it’s okay to be sad or frustrated about things. It’s okay for you to wish you could go back and change things. That is perfectly normal and healthy.

What isn’t healthy is falling into a dark hole about it and staying there. Every failure in life can be a learning opportunity, even if it’s painfully learning something that doesn’t work for you.

A failed relationship can teach you what you don’t want in future relationships.

A failed attempt at school may teach you that you need to pursue something else.

A failed anything can teach you that you need to adapt, pivot, and try for your goal again in a different way.

Having a growth mindset is about taking all your life experiences, good and bad, and allowing them to shape you in a healthy way—even when you go through bad things.

A growth mindset gives you permission to stop feeling bad about something you did or experienced.

Additional Skills And Studies To Improve Decision-Making

Some additional skills and studies can help you improve your decision-making ability. By taking some time to delve into some of the following skills, you can learn from the experiences of others and avoid repeating mistakes.


Philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about life, knowledge, ethics, and reality through critical analysis and debate.

Philosophers explore themes such as the meaning of life and morality, seeking to better understand our place in the world and how to navigate it.

Though the discipline of philosophy is broad, it touches on every fundamental aspect of existence, including how we formulate our decisions based on our wisdom and world experiences.

Studying philosophy can help you better understand yourself, the people around you, and the situations you find yourself in, which can help you break bad habits and make better decisions.


Self-help is valuable when it comes from people who have experience correcting the problems that you’re trying to fix yourself.

That said, self-help material often only comes from their own perspective. Professional material, on the other hand, tends to be written in a broader sense.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with people sharing their journey and how they got to where they wanted to be, but you should always keep in mind that the path may not be right for you. We all have our own individual journeys ahead of us.


Additional education provides knowledge and context that you may not have. It doesn’t need to be formal education in the sense of going back to school.

You could spend some time listening to podcasts or watching videos from experts who talk about subjects related to decision-making, such as philosophy and decision-making skills.

The more you know, the better equipped you are to make good decisions and find the right solutions.


An ethical framework can help you predetermine your decisions.

For example, let’s say you are a person who gets emotionally overwhelmed when confronted in the moment. You may feel flustered and then make poor decisions because you are overwhelmed by emotion.

Well, you can limit the impact of emotion on the situation by considering your ethical stances ahead of time.

Imagine someone saying to you, “I need you to do this particularly shady thing. And here’s why…”

Well, you don’t need to consider it in that moment because you’ve already decided that kind of action goes against your personal code of ethics and morality. You’re already prepared to say, “No. I’m not doing that because it would be wrong.”

Emotional Intelligence

Developing your emotional intelligence will help you feel greater empathy toward yourself and others. Empathy often helps guide decisions. If you feel that your actions may harm a person, empathy will often keep you from taking that action.

But empathy is not limited to just other people. Empathy, kindness, and consideration are all things that you should extend to yourself, too.

By practicing empathy toward yourself, you can be a little kinder to yourself and avoid bad decisions because you understand that you don’t deserve to hurt or suffer either.

Communication Skills

Many bad decisions come from miscommunication. You may think the other person is saying one thing, when really, they’re saying another.

Anger may be a factor, which causes people to focus on the subject of their anger rather than the entire situation.

By developing your communication skills, you can better express your needs and understand the needs of others. That helps you arrive at better conclusions, make better decisions, and avoid unnecessary conflict, which can also be a factor in bad decision-making.

Consider Seeking Professional Help

There are plenty of reasons for bad decision-making. Sometimes it’s trauma that warps our perspective. It could be that low self-esteem makes you think that you don’t deserve good things or kindness. It may be mental health issues or even just bad habits. Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or full-blown mental illness can disrupt the way you perceive the world, which makes it harder to make good decisions.

Whatever the reason may be, if you find yourself struggling to make the progress you’re looking for, you should talk to a therapist who can help you get to the root of the problem and work toward a solution.

A certified therapist may be able to point you to strategies and paths that other people who have faced similar changes have used to attain their success, if you find that you’re not able to do it on your own. is a website where you can get the help you need from the comfort of your own home via phone, video, or instant message.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again to learn more about the process or to sign up.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspectives from the side of the mental health consumer. Jack has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.