Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Learning from Your Mistakes

Nobody likes making mistakes. It is human nature to make mistakes. If you go through life afraid to make a mistake, you’ll spend most of your life doing absolutely nothing. There is no harm in making mistakes, it is an essential part of learning. If you feel the need to avoid mistakes at all costs, it becomes a psychological barrier to taking risks.

Learning from your mistakes is one of the greatest personal achievements you can make. From your own mistakes you can gain wisdom and accelerate self-improvement. Mistakes, because of their relationship with risk taking, are essential to success. The important thing is to view mistakes as a useful stepping stone to a higher confidence and a broader perspective.

No amount of analysis can replace your confidence in yourself. When you've made a mistake, especially a visible one that impacts other people, it's natural to question your ability to perform next time. But you must get past your doubts. The best you can do is study the past, practice for the situations you expect, and get back in the game. Your studying of the past should help broaden your perspective.

Learning from mistakes requires three things:

  • Putting yourself in situations where you can make mistakes
  • Having the self-confidence to recognize and admit to them
  • Being courageous about making improvements
Scott Berkun, the author of three bestselling books, Making Things Happen; The Myths of Innovation; and Confessions of a Public Speaker, suggests the following checklist for learning from your mistakes.

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.
The most important lesson in making mistakes is to trust that while mistakes are inevitable and you can learn from them. No matter what happens tomorrow you'll be able to get value from it, and apply it to the day after that. Progress won't be a straight line but if you keep learning you will have more successes than failures, and the mistakes you make along the way will help you get to where you want to go.

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