“Your willingness to learn and adjust positively from mistakes and shortcomings will largely determine how far you will travel the road to success” (John Maxwell)

Human beings really struggle to learn from mistakes. It is not because we don’t want to learn from our errors. It is infrequent that we don’t understand why we made the mistake. It is unlikely, if prompted, that we would not be able to explain the mistake. It is even possible that we will make the same mistake again. Making mistakes is part of being human – learning from them, however, is a skill that requires focus and application.

Mistakes can be valuable – for them to be of value, however, we need to embrace them as necessary parts of our lives, admit them and approach solutions with an open mind and a willing heart. We need to be open to learn from our errors and grow from the experiences.

Many people were conditioned from childhood to hide their mistakes to prevent criticism, judgement, or embarrassment. In the workplace, the environment if often not conducive to learning from mistakes, so employees refrain from admitting mistakes to avoid censure. These practices are unhelpful and breed secretive cultures, destroying trust in the process.

To become successful, mistakes need to be seen as opportunities for development – a recalibration of behaviour that leads to better results. The following tenets should be observed to get the best results:

  1. Acknowledge your mistakes – admitting mistakes and apologising where necessary is an important first step towards personal growth and finding solutions. Apologising indicates that you respect the person or group that was affected by the error and shows that you are willing to take responsibility for rectifying it.
  2. Understand your mistakes – identify the cause of the mistakes and consider what you did well, or poorly. Getting to grips with the origin of the mistake helps to clarify what you need to do differently to avoid making the same mistake again.
  3. Seek helpful feedback – discussing problems with mentors or your boss can give you valuable insight into alternative ways of doing things. These new approaches may help you navigate future challenging circumstances.
  4. Discover valuable lessons – maybe a mistake taught you something you didn’t previously know, or it pointed out skills that need to be enhanced. Find the learning nuggets so that you can work on improving in the relevant areas of your life.
  5. Keep track of your progress – reflect on successes and/or further failures. Keep setting new goals to improve how your mind approaches various situations that trigger failure and practise corrective behaviours where possible.

Mistakes can be valuable, however, dwelling on these mistakes is not helpful. Focus and energy need to be applied to corrective actions that lead to success.

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