How to effectively learn from your mistakes

Whether at work, with friends or family, we all make mistakes in life. Some have little consequences where as other lead to more serious outcome, especially if it affects other people as well.


But the worst, is to repeat the same mistake. To avoid the inevitable feeling of helplessness, anger and shame that follow making twice or more the same mistake, here below are a few techniques that could benefit you.

1) Keep yourself together and recognize the mistake

So you just made a mistake. Hold it right there. Stay calm and recognize what you just have done.

Then decide on a strategy.

Are you going to immediately report the mistake to whoever it might affect? Are you going to wait some time before reporting it? Or are you going to deny it altogether? Think very carefully about this because whatever you chose you will have to stick with it until the issue gets closed. And if you chose the last solution, you had better cover your track very carefully…I mean, you don’t want to be dumbstruck when the prosecution pulls out the overwhelming evidence against you, right?

2) Analyze the mistake

Take the time to sit down and pen down the below information on a piece of paper.

 a. The practical part

  • define the mistake
  • when did it happen?
  • why did it happen?
  • what did you learn from it?
  • what are the preventive measures to avoid similar mistakes in the future?
  • when will the above preventive measures be implemented?

The above steps are common in corporations, try to use them in private.

b. The unconscious part

Next step is to read between the lines and interpret the unconscious meaning of this mistake.

Some mistake are purely operational, anyone in the same situation could have done it. But some aren’t, they have deeper meaning and to find that out, you could ask yourself the following questions :

Was there a recurring feeling (anger, doubt, pain etc.) that you have been feeling in the recent past? 

  • right before the mistake was made?
  • in the previous day, week or month before it occurred?

For example, let’s say I made a mistake at work. I should then be asking myself whether I felt some dissatisfaction about my work lately. This will not be apparent at first, but I might soon discover that I don’t like my job as much as I used to, especially after having been deceived by my boss over a promotional opportunity. But since I have to fulfill my college debt payment and that the economy is down, I have not been able to give in to that feeling and to find another job more suited to my present needs and desires.

If you didn’t have all those restrains (time, monetary needs, family duties etc.), how would your life be different? 

To continue on the example above, I would answer this question as follows: if I didn’t have this college debt, I would quit my job immediately and I would find a job that is less stressful and that gives me more time for myself. I would then use that extra time to start an online retail store that sell articles related to rap music (clothing, CD, 1990′s vinyls, DVDs etc.)

This is not always easy. Listening to your profound self can be very scary because the subconscious is filled with desires that are still in rough shape, just like a diamond that haven’t been cut yet. Giving an ear to those rough thoughts and feelings could make you wonder if your are mentally all that sane. Well rest reassured, everybody has intrusive thoughts.

In addition, not all desires can be fulfillable in real life. The key is to understand what is possible and what is not possible and to burry every last bit of illusion remaining for things that will never be realizable in the real world. This is hard but you have the courage buried somewhere within yourself, so look for it and use it.

What are the practical steps that I need to take to fulfill my real life actionable desires?

The reality may not allow you to quit your job immediately but what about in 6 months or a year? If you really want it, can’t it be done? Or is there an alternative solution that could diminish the dissatisfaction (ex. getting transferred to another team.., working from home etc.)?

You will not be able to ignore your aspirations forever, even if it seems inconvenient in light of your daily imperatives. Sometimes, you have to forcefully find a place to fit in your those desires and create a time for yourself. Otherwise this will add up over time and you will pay the price of neglecting yourself.

Feel free to add other suggestions.

11 thoughts on “How to effectively learn from your mistakes

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