How to Learn from Mistakes

Nobody likes making mistakes. But, unless you want to go through life as a complete recluse, you are guaranteed to make one every now and them. If you learn from mistakes correctly, they can propell will you forward.

You must also realise that mistakes are an essential part of self improvement. Don’t be overwhelmed with guilt and regret, analyze how you can learn from them.

Apologise with Dignity

If you’ve made mistakes that harm other people, it is important to offer a dignified apology. Be clear that it was an unfortunate incident that will not be repeated. A good apology can go along way to restoring trust.

If you don’t apologize, out of embarrassment or unwillingness, the offended person will hold it against you. If your apology is sincere, the other person is likely to forgive you.

It is more effective to apologize in person, rather than through a curt email. However, once you have apologised, it is mistake to repeatedly say sorry for the same mistake. Some people keep apologising over and over again. This becomes irritating. It is better to sincerely apologize once and then move on.

Don’t be a Perfectionist

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 going forward. The more responsibility you take on, the more likely you will make mistakes.

If you feel the need to avoid mistakes at all costs, it becomes a psychological barrier to taking risks. If you make a mistake, don’t retreat into a shell.

Don’t Waste Time Trying to Justify Mistakes

Unfortunately, it is our natural instinct to try to justify our actions. When you make a mistake, theinitial reaction is to blame someone else.

“Yes, I drove my car into the wall, but it was all my partners fault for distracting me with her incessant gossiping…”

When mistakes are made, the boss is unlikely to be interested in justifications. We justify mistakes for the sake of our ego. Sometimes it is best to say, very simply — yes, I made a mistake.

Understand Why The Mistake Occurred

Mistakes occur for various reasons. To avoid repeating them, you need to understand the underlying reason.

For example, you may have spoken in anger and haste; the mistake here is to say unkind words. However, what led you to be angry in the first place? Perhaps you were chronically tired, or perhaps you were nursing an unrelated grievance. If you make mistakes because you are permanently tired, try to get more sleep; if you are permanently stressed, look at ways to relax and detach from the stress of work.

Avoid Repeating Mistakes

You should avoid feeling guilty about making mistakes, but at the same time, you should make a resolution to learn from them. If you repeat the same mistakes, it shows you aren’t making progress and causes repeated suffering.

Often mistakes are caused by bad habits. To avoid making the same mistakes you need to break these bad habits. This requires careful consideration and sustained effort to change your way of thinking. However, the sooner you change your habits, the sooner you will avoid making the same mistakes.

Mistakes are Opportunities to Learn

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 reality and better outlook on life.

Tejvan Pettinger is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre. He lives in Oxford where he works as a teacher. He enjoys writing and updates a blog called Sri Chinmoy Inspiration, a collection of articles on self improvement. Recent articles include: Finding Inspiration to Write on Self Improvement.

  • http://www.darksociologist.com Dark Sociologist

    Learning from your mistakes is always a good thing, but when two or more parties are involved, then their egos are also usually involved too.

    In order for another person to learn from their mistakes, you must provide an opportunity for them to admit that they are wrong, while also allowing them to save face. This is always a tricky thing

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Very true. Your comments reminds me of a previous post about Resolving Conflicts Quickly and Peacefully.

    The basic message is to sacrifice your own ego for the sake of a peaceful resolution.

  • http://www.varsityblah.com/about Eugene (Editor, Varsity Blah)

    I think it’s importnat to look at this from the other side as well, i.e. being the person who’s been wronged.

    In that regard, it’s really important not to hold grudges or try to get even because doing so only hurts yourself.

    Understand that everyone’s human and that making mistakes is a part of that. It’s nothing to get stuck on.

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  • Jack

    Pick the Brain rules, ur my day to day guide to self improvemtn great job, look forward to tommoros email

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  • http://aa11.tripod.com/gold/ * Miss Universe

    learn from the mistakes of others too – not just yourself.
    people need a shoulder to cry on, so get something our of it

  • http://www.newlevelopportunities.com Peter Williams

    Amazing post Tejvan,
    No matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never ever lose your value. You are special. Don’t ever forget that – ‘Never let yesterday’s disappointments overshadow tomorrow’s dreams’. Failure is the stepping stone to huge success. Learn how to change your thinking to change your life. :)

    • helen

      dear peter,
      yes, we have to look forward and believe, learn from the mistake to make us stronger and keep us special

  • http://www.r2rprofits.com/support.html Roadmap to Riches

    This is a great post. Failing Forward…

    -Jeff Milincheck

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  • http://www.drjerm.com Jeremy Johnson

    This is good information about learning from mistakes. I believe fully in learning from mistakes. I believe a big part of learning from mistakes is also knowing what mistakes can be made in a given situation, deciding what a mistake really is, getting input from other people on your mistakes, gaining confidence to eliminate fear of mistakes, and using the knowledge gained from mistakes to do better next time.

    • http://www.drjerm.com/Learn-From-Mistakes/Learn-From-Mistakes.php Jeremy Johnson

      Couple things I missed: accept that you will make mistakes and that you are not perfect. Look at the mistakes of others and be proactive in your decision making. Gain as much focus as you can.

      • http://www.drjerm.com/Learn-From-Mistakes/Learn-From-Mistakes.php Learn From Mistakes – Jeremy Johnson

        P.P.S. Accept the decisions and mistakes of others. This will ease stres and conflict in your life and theirs.

  • http://www.lalala.com tamara


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  • http://www.crimsoneyedesigns.com Cleo Powers

    Mistakes when dealing with people, strangers, co-workers, family etc. etc. leave scars that takes much time, if ever, to heal, even with prayer. Mistakes of hitting your finger with a hammer & blowing out the tip, repairs itself, over time. a big difference between the two mistakes. So says Cleo Powers

  • Karla

    I personally made so many mistakes in the last few weeks by building up on lies and wanting people to believe me because I did not want to dissappoint them. The day that I actually told the truth no one believed me and because of that I lost the man I was planning on to marry and whom I loved so much, but I hurt him so bad and I lost my parents trust and it’s not the first time. Please tell me things will be oky aventually because it’s hurting soooooo bad. and I’m sooo very sorry.

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  • Alyssa

    Karla.. Trust can always be rebuilt. If your family and friends truly love you they will let you recognize the mistake you made and then help you through recovery. The mistake doesn’t define you..The way you deal with the aftermath does…Yes, it will probably hurt for a while, but in the long run you will learn and grow from it…

  • http://facebook.com Nikka Esquillo

    The essential thing here seems to be the testing/quizzing mode vs. repetition.

  • http://facebook.com Nikka Esquillo

    Learning from mistakes is what perfects us both mentally and physically.

  • http://facebook.com Wa Ley

    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 going forward. The more responsibility you take on, the more likely you will make mistakes.

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  • http://www.cricket2011worldcup.com rugby world cup 2011

    That’s nice! i really agreed with this post on learn from mistakes.actually, it is a great idea.thanks

  • http://www.cricket2011worldcup.com rugby world cup 2011

    That’s nice! i really agreed with this post on learn from mistakes.actually, it is a great idea.thanks

  • Caraporu

    I totally agree, mistakes are opportunity to learn.
    thank for the article….

  • Fidan_haciyeva

    l prefer to learn from my mistakes it heps me to know how not to do it again and in this way l dont  actually cant  to put the blame on somebody because l know that l am responsible for this fault 

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  • Sharuna29

    the whole article is great, i learn a great deal from this article, plx continue to write such articles. 

  • Su

    One of the best articles on the web! God bless you.

  • Su

    One of the best articles on the web! God bless you.

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  • Asoldierswife05

    I loved it, very nice!


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  • Gumthalakkadi

    We live in a world where most would know that We have commited mistakes, but many probably in the millions do not have the capacity for forgiveness. 1st Impression or perception and prejudiced judgmental mindset clouds everyones mind. You can learn from mitstakes but whats the use when others Never forgets who commited them ? 


    I think when you make the mistake, you give other person a chance to judge you wrongly. However if you correct the behavior over time and make the other person feel that it was indeed a mistake and nothing else (he may perceive it as mistake in judging you), he should be able to forgive you. Apologizing every time is not possible. Sometimes you have to forgive yourself. Give yourself chance to improve yourself instead of justifying yourself. However, just make up your mind how you did mistake and how you wont repeat that without being opposite the next time. Just forgive yourself and don’t let mistakes change your thinking. (easier said than done)

  • shannon

    i make the most ridiculous mistakes..fear has become my middle name and grounding my survival technique.

  • Life_Lesson

    Just made a mistake that cost me a relationship with a wonderful great person. I apologized as described here and choose to learn from my mistake but refuse to wallow in guilt and being downtrodden.
    This is a wonderful article. It is a helpful reference. Thanks Tejvan.

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  • Betsy

    thank you for teaching me how to learn from a mistake

  • Gigi Lam

    Absolutely agree!! Thanks for the article

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