5 effective ways to turn mistakes into life lessons
“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes”
- Oscar Wilde Irish poet and playwright (1854 –1900)
It's common knowledge that nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. But when errors arise they can still be seen as failures. Instead, by embracing our mistakes and learning from them, we can achieve contentment and success.
Why Learning from Mistakes is Important
Learning from our mistakes is a great way to turn a negative experience into something positive, by growing and avoiding the same mistake in the future. It can help us keep calm under pressure, boost self-confidence, move forwards and trust our instincts. This can be said for both our working and personal lives.
For instance, if you fail a driving test, rather than giving up and thinking you are useless, study the major or minor mistakes you made and you will be unlikely to make the same mistakes again in the next test.
In addition, our emotional wellbeing benefits too. Emotional wellbeing is our ability to acknowledge and accept all our feelings, the pleasant and unpleasant ones. This influences how we respond to challenges and manage negative emotions. If we don’t accept and learn from our mistakes, we run the risk of letting them define us or tarnish the way we view ourselves and the world. This can be damaging to our emotional wellbeing, as we continuously question ourselves and hold on to negative emotions, such as bitterness or anger.
If we have examples that we can look back on regarding how we dealt with negative emotions or how we coped with a past situation, our self-confidence may grow, as well as our resilience to daily challenges. This can lead to overall emotional wellness. It’s all about learning to improve decision making, mitigating risk, and developing as individuals. While making mistakes doesn’t feel good at the time, by shifting our mindset to focus on the learnings, we can use the errors to our advantage.
Learning from our mistakes also teaches us about ourselves. How do we handle disappointment? Can we participate in an awkward conversation to explain an error? How much confidence do we have in ourselves?
Getting hung-up on our mistakes can also hinder our personal goals. It is often the fear of making a mistake in the first place that may stop us from pursuing something. Whether it’s embarking on a particular career path or travelling across the world, you might surprise yourself with how brave you can be if you accept that everyone makes mistake, rather than judging yourself for them.
How to Turn Mistakes into Life Lessons
Every situation will be different, but the following ways can help make sense of our mistakes and begin turning them into life lessons:
1. Recognise your Errors
This requires self-reflection and addressing our imperfections. As we may feel ashamed when we make a mistake, identifying an error might leave you feeling embarrassed, defensive, or sad. Be kind to yourself and remember that you are only human.
2. Take in feedback
If you don’t automatically receive feedback, ask for it. Whether it’s from a work colleague or a friend, constructive feedback can provide accurate, quick solutions and learnings.
3. Create a Plan of Action
Challenge yourself and think what you could have done differently, and how the experience will help you in the future. This resilience can improve our emotional wellbeing by developing how we handle negative emotions and help us weigh up the probability of the outcome next time.
4. Put your lessons into Action
This step requires practice, commitment, and positive thinking. Use what you have learnt from the actual mistake, as well as what it has taught you about yourself. Respect yourself for taking responsibility of your mistake. Then, have the confidence to implement changes to your behaviour or thought process going forwards.
For example, you fail to get the job you want after the interview and feel disappointed in yourself. When you ask for feedback, the company say that they didn’t think you had prepared for the interview. Rather than berating yourself, reflect on how you could modify your behaviour ahead of your next job interview. Make a plan of action and next time, ensure you have researched the company and understand how your skills and experience are right for that particular job role.
5. Teach others your life lessons
It doesn’t have to just be the actual mistake we learn from, but the process of taking accountability for errors and how we can benefit from them too. For example, someone older than you might have experienced a similar situation and give you advice about how they tackled it when they were your age. This step also reinforces the fact that making mistakes is totally normal and everyone does it!