Mistakes: Accepting and Learning from Them Deepens Your Time

MistakesMistakes:  We try not to make them, but we do.

And it’s not the fact of making mistakes that’s the problem – it’s trying to deny and turn away from them that really gets us into trouble.

That’s the thesis of the fascinating article  that I read on lifehacker not too long ago.  “How to Identify and Learn from Your Mistakes” by Scott Berkun can be found in his new collection of essays titled Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds.

As the title of this post implies, the foundational step in learning from mistakes lies in accepting them.  And that can be a tall order for many of us.  As he notes:

We’re taught in school, in our families, or at work to feel guilty about failure and to do whatever we can to avoid mistakes. This sense of shame combined with the inevitability of setbacks when attempting difficult things explains why many people give up on their goals: they’re not prepared for the mistakes and failures they’ll face on their way to what they want.

Equating mistakes with guilt and shame is a surefire way to:

  • Introduce denial into the equation,
  • Effectively cut off the possibility of learning from mistakes, and
  • Train us to lower our goals and expectations, so that we are less likely to make mistakes to begin with.

Mistakes and Time

You might think that mistakes are problematic because they slow us down by virtue of the fact that we have to go back and correct them.

But I’d like to suggest that the larger problem is how we react to our mistakes.  The longer it takes to identify and accept them, the more time we lose to energy-sapping and unproductive denial and avoidance.

Learning from a mistake is never a waste of time; and in fact, it is energizing and improves efficiency and productivity over the long run.  So accepting and learning from mistakes is a big time-saver, transforming something we’re trained to see as a negative into a positive.

In his article (which I highly recommend) Scott Berkun explores the 4 types of mistakes in fascinating depth and shares a Mistakes Checklist.  I quote that in full below:

The Learning From Mistakes Checklist

  1. Accepting responsibility makes learning possible.

  2. Don’t equate making mistakes with being a mistake.

  3. You can’t change mistakes, but you can choose how to respond to them.

  4. Growth starts when you can see room for improvement.

  5. Work to understand why it happened and what the factors were.

  6. What information could have avoided the mistake?

  7. What small mistakes, in sequence, contributed to the bigger mistake?

  8. Are there alternatives you should have considered but did not?

  9. What kinds of changes are required to avoid making this mistake again?What kinds of change are difficult for you?

  10. How do you think your behavior should/would change in you were in a similar situation again?

  11. Work to understand the mistake until you can make fun of it (or not want to kill others that make fun).

  12. Don’t over-compensate: the next situation won’t be the same as the last.

So, I invite you to consider accepting and learning from mistakes as a powerful and practical time management tool.  And if the Voice of your Inner Critic  is something that trips you up when you try to do this, then you may want to take a look at my Exercise and Guide Book titled, “‘These Critical Voices Are Driving Me Crazy!’ How to Use Positive Self-Talk to Save Your Sanity and Your Time!

I like to call it simply “Voices” – and it offers simple, practical exercises, checklists and tips for learning to recognize the critical voices you carry inside and creating ways to counter those negative messages.

You can remove the roadblocks that keep you from making the most of your moments.  Learning from mistakes is a great place to start!

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  1. I love this blog post. If you scold someone for making a mistake it will only make them feel worse, it will not make them not want to do it again. It will make them angry at you and make them feel terrible about themselves. Part of making mistakes is being able to learn from them, and we have to make mistakes so that we can learn from them. My parents always let us make our own mistakes, and then they talked to us about them and why it wasn’t a good choice

  2. This is awesome. We should learn from our mistakes, but not be immobilized by them. Great, practical post!

  3. Wonderful post, thanks so much! I sometimes think of mistakes as collisions between my illusions and reality. The collision is the good news, because it’s a wake-up call that my thinking needs revising.

  4. Great post. We learn from mistakes. There would be no growth without mistakes. As Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We are not our mistakes.

  5. I so wish my children would learn from their mistakes, but alas, many are not because of some deficits in their abilities (adopted, FAS). Mistakes can be a good thing, like you said, if we learn from them. Sometimes they turn out to be very positive.

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