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  1. Business
  2. Productivity

How to Learn From Your Mistakes (& Do Better Next Time)

Read Time: 10 mins

Mistakes are a natural part of life. But what we do with those mistakes is what defines the type of person we are. Learning from mistakes can be challenging. But if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re doomed to repeat them. 

Woman visibly frustrated while working. Image from Envato ElementsWoman visibly frustrated while working. Image from Envato ElementsWoman visibly frustrated while working. Image from Envato Elements
Woman visibly frustrated while working. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Everyone makes mistakes. But if you learn from your mistakes, you can stop doing them.

Learning from your mistakes is easier said than done. That’s why in this article, we’ve put together our best tips to help you understand why it’s important to learn from your mistakes and how to go about it. 

Why It’s Important to Learn From Our Mistakes

We’ve already mentioned that learning from your mistakes is important so you can stop doing them. But that’s not the only reason why you should learn from your mistakes. Here are three more reasons you should learn from your mistakes:

  1. Learning from your mistakes provides you with an opportunity for growth. It allows you to own up to your mistake, which isn't always easy. It also allows you to learn how to recognize the steps in the process that led to the mistake as well as learn how to correct those steps. 
  2. Learning from your mistakes is important because it can boost the trust your employer has in you. If they know that you’re willing to put in the effort to improve yourself, they’ll be more likely to trust you with important tasks. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, they might stop assigning you tasks altogether because they won’t trust you can get it done correctly. 
  3. Learning from your mistakes allows you to stop being afraid of failure. If you never learn from your mistakes, you’ll constantly worry about making the same mistake and failing. But if you identify what went wrong, you can begin to understand what you need to do differently. 

This allows you to turn your mistake into a positive experience and increase your confidence in your ability to do a good job. In the end, you stop being afraid of failure because you know that there's always room for growth and improvement. 

How to Learn From Your Mistakes

Now that you know why it’s important to learn from your mistakes, let’s talk about how to actually do it. Here are nine steps to take:

1. Acknowledge & Own Your Mistake

Finding and acknowledging your mistakes is step one. Image from Envato Elements.Finding and acknowledging your mistakes is step one. Image from Envato Elements.Finding and acknowledging your mistakes is step one. Image from Envato Elements.
Finding and acknowledging your mistakes is step one. (Image source: Envato Elements).

The first thing you should do is acknowledge and own your mistake. While nobody likes to admit they made a mistake, doing so is crucial if you want to learn from it. Take a deep breath, admit the mistake, apologize for it, and inform them that you’re working on a solution. 

This shows them that you're willing to learn and improve and it also shows them that you respect them enough to tell them you’ve made a mistake. 

Acknowledging and owning up to your mistakes takes courage. But it’s far better to come clean than let those in charge find out about from other sources. This can seriously damage your reputation and shatter any trust your superiors and peers have in you. 

If you'd like to learn more about how to give an apology, study the advice found here:

2. Analyze What Went Wrong

Once you’ve acknowledged your mistake, it’s time to analyze what went wrong. Try to objectively think about what went wrong by asking the following questions:

  • What was I doing? 
  • What didn’t go as expected?
  • When did things go wrong?
  • What caused the mistake to happen?

For example, let’s say you were responsible for a large print order of new brochures. The brochures were supposed to be delivered to you Monday in time for a new promotional campaign, but the order ran late. As a result, your marketing campaign has to be rescheduled which may impact the number of sales. 

By asking the series of questions outlined above, you’ve identified that the order ran late because the printer shop needed to use a special printing technique. Unfortunately, the order was placed too late for the job to be done on time. 

In the future, you'll call the print shop ahead of time and ask them about the printing process. You can then make a better plan for when the brochure designs need to be sent to the printer and give yourself more buffer time. 

3. Ask for Feedback If Necessary

Asking for feedback can help guide how you recover from a mistake. Image from Envato Elements.Asking for feedback can help guide how you recover from a mistake. Image from Envato Elements.Asking for feedback can help guide how you recover from a mistake. Image from Envato Elements.
Asking for feedback can help guide how you recover from a mistake. (Image source: Envato Elements)

In some cases, you might not be the only person responsible for a particular task or a project. In such cases, it’s helpful to ask others who were involved the same series of questions so you can identify what went wrong, when, and where. 

It’s also a good idea to ask your superiors for constructive criticism and what you can do better next time. This demonstrates your willingness to learn and improve. Learn more about how to give constructive criticism in this article: 

If you’re new in a company, you might even ask your coworkers for tips on avoiding common mistakes or how they’ve handled a similar mistake. 

For example, with our previous example you can ask your superiors if there’s a better printing company that you can use or how far in advance do you need to prep the materials to make sure everything runs smoothly.

4. Reframe the Mistake

It’s easy to see the mistake as a purely negative experience. What’s worse, it’s also easy to beat yourself over it. But dwelling on your mistake only keeps you stuck instead of letting you learn from it. 

But that doesn’t mean you can simply acknowledge your mistake and then move on as if it never happened. It may be uncomfortable to think about and analyze your mistake but it’s a necessary part of the learning process.

A positive, growth-oriented mindset is important here as it allows you to reframe the mistake. You can look at it in a more positive light and think about what you can do to prevent it from happening again. 

For example, you made a mistake because you didn’t follow the process correctly. You can create a step-by-step checklist of all the steps involved in the process and tape it next to your computer. 

5. Find the Lessons

By now, you’ve identified the mistake, you’ve analyzed what went wrong, and you’ve reframed the mistake as an opportunity for growth. The next part of the process is to find lessons in the mistake. 

Perhaps, you’ve discovered that you need to work on your time management and planning skills so you can get better at evaluating project or tasks durations. Discover some time management tips in this article:

Or maybe you’ve realized that you aren’t good at memorizing all the steps in the process and you need an external tool to help you. 

You might also realize that you need to set more realistic goals and deadlines when it comes to projects. 

Whatever the case may be, finding those lessons allows you to gradually improve yourself and your work. 

6. Apply the Lessons

Finding lessons isn't enough. You also have to apply them. This can be tricky as our everyday schedules can get busy rather quickly. With all the tasks and responsibilities looming over our heads, it’s all too easy to postpone putting what you learned into practice. 

To prevent that from happening, it’s a good idea to make a plan for how and when you’ll apply what you’ve learned from your mistakes. 

For example, this might mean taking a few hours on a day when you've got a light schedule to research tools that'll help you keep track of steps involved in a particular process. 

It might also mean using a time tracking app such as Toggl so you can learn more about how long each task takes you.  

7. Review Your Progress

Review what you've learned periodically to prevent future issues. Image from Envato Elements.Review what you've learned periodically to prevent future issues. Image from Envato Elements.Review what you've learned periodically to prevent future issues. Image from Envato Elements.
Review what you've learned periodically to prevent future issues. (Image source: Envato Elements)

As you take the steps and apply the lessons, you must continually review your progress. This allows you to see how far you’ve come. But keep in mind that you might have to go through several rounds of refining and reapplying the lessons. This is a normal part of the process. 

Build the review process into your weekly routine and keep track of the mistakes made as you apply the lessons you’ve learned. You can also make note of any new mistakes that might arise so you can go through the same reframing and analysis process. 

Keeping a journal is a good way to reflect on your progress but you can also ask someone to keep you accountable. This will ensure that the lessons are actually applied and produce results. 

8. Share What You’ve Learned

Learning from your mistakes is all well and good. But, if you’re the only one who learned something from it, there’s a risk that the mistake could happen again. Instead of keeping it to yourself, consider sharing what you’ve learned with others in your company. 

For example, an important order was late because the printing company you’ve used has a known history of not delivering work on time. You can prevent the mistake from happening again by letting others know you’ll be using a different company next time. 

Or if you’ve made a mistake because the process was unclear, you can let others know that the instruction manual is being reviewed and that steps A, B, and C need to be included. 

Sharing your mistakes along with lessons you’ve learned can serve as a bonding experience between coworkers. It can also contribute to making your workplace more productive and efficient. Review the tips found here to learn more about productivity:

9. Maintain a Learning and Growth Mindset

Lastly, it’s important for you to maintain a learning and growth mindset. View each experience as an opportunity to improve your skills and yourself. This will help you remain focused on the positive and allow you to recognize mistakes as learning opportunities instead of failures. 

Think of any past mistakes as positive experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today. Understand that it’s impossible to go through life without making mistakes and accept them instead of trying to avoid them at all costs. Remember, some of the world’s greatest inventions were the result of mistakes. 

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Unlimited downloads from Envato Elements means you can streamline your workflow whenever you want -- with ease. Unlimited downloads from Envato Elements means you can streamline your workflow whenever you want -- with ease. Unlimited downloads from Envato Elements means you can streamline your workflow whenever you want -- with ease.
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Treat Mistakes as Learning Opportunities 

Making mistakes is a natural part of life. But you don’t have to treat yourself harshly or dwell on your mistakes. Instead, treat them as learning opportunities and put what you’ve learned into practice. 

Use the tips shared in this article to help you reframe your mistake, analyze it, and identify the tools and resources you can use to keep you from making the same mistake in the future.

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