Hindsight is 2020: How to learn from past mistakes and move on
As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20”. Here are some practical suggestions for how to learn from those past mistakes and move forward.
Want to learn from your next mistake? Have a misstep that has been nagging at you? Read below for some practical tips on how to learn from it and move on.
For many of us, hiding a mistake is our first impulse, but don’t allow it to be the lasting one. Take a moment to breathe and then remind yourself of how important it is to take responsibility when things go wrong. Whether you’re fessing up to the whole issue or how you contributed to a multi-party mistake, it takes courage and strength to say “I messed up and I’m sorry.” If you don’t take responsibility for your part in a mistake or if you minimize your culpability, you will undoubtedly lose the trust of those around you, as well as rob yourself of an opportunity for growth.
Once you’ve accepted responsibility, take a moment to think about how you got there. What went wrong? What could you have done better? One strategy for analyzing a mistake is to drill down with “Why?” until you can’t go any further. A simple example would be making a mistake at work on a spreadsheet of figures that was published throughout the company. Why? You missed the error during your editing or review. Why? You were tired that day. Why? You haven’t been getting enough sleep. Why? You’ve been struggling with discipline with getting to bed on time. There! That’s a problem you can address and fix before you make another error. This method is easy with task-like issues, but gets more complicated when you use it to get to the bottom of issues in a relationship, for example.
Mistakes inevitably feel terrible, but try to see each one as an opportunity to make a change, to build trust or to clarify your values. When you see your mistakes through the lense of a growth mindset, you notice how much you can learn from each one. In the end, it’s often our mistakes that refine who we are as people and drive us to be better!
Make a change.
Using your analysis of why your mistake occurred, make the changes you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If someone else is involved, make sure you give a sincere apology, assure them that you take the misstep seriously and share with them how you plan to keep it from happening again, if appropriate.
Many of us dwell on our mistakes, even though we know this habit isn’t helping us. Take a moment to remember that “to err is human”. Not a single one of us is perfect and no one expects perfection from you. Hanging on to guilt over something you’ve already made amends for isn’t helping you or anyone else involved. Remember, a mistake is something you’ve done… not who you are. If you struggle with guilt chronically, try reading this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson each night before bed:
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
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