Mistakes are the most relatable of topics; we all make them repeatedly. They are also very powerful. Inside each mistake is a little nugget of wisdom that can make you better. Unfortunately, most people never learn how to tap into that power by confronting their mistakes. In this article you will discover how to change your perspective on mistakes in order to be able to use them as a stepping stones to future success.
Rejecting Society’s View
We live in a society that values perfection. The obsession with always getting things right can cause us to strive for perfection in our own lives. When we inevitably make a mistake, there can be a tendency to feel shame, which brings on a sense of failure. We want to expunge that bad experience from our memory and focus on the positive things that make us feel good about ourselves.
A person with a ‘mistakes are bad’ outlook will never find the gem of wisdom hidden within that experience. As a result, they will be unable to learn and grow from their mistakes. It is only when we dissect and analyze our mistakes that we are able to make better choices in the future.
This is what George Santayana was getting at when he uttered the famous words:
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Why You Should Admit Your Mistakes
If you find it hard to admit your mistakes you’re not alone. In Convicting the Innocent, eight cases were highlighted where people were convicted of murder, only for the ‘victims’ to later show up alive and well. Yet, despite that there was now a living, breathing human being in front of them, prosecutors and police refused to acknowledge that they had, in fact, made a mistake. The review concluded that “most people, when confronted with undeniable proof of their mistakes, do not change their point of view or course of action but justify it more tenaciously.”
Not admitting our mistakes is ironically one of the biggest mistakes we can make. Admitting our mistakes liberates us. It frees us from the necessity to cover up what we’ve done so no-one else notices it. Admitting your mistakes to others will also usually cause those people to think better of you. They’ll see you as a humble person, and humility is a very endearing quality.
Admitting our mistakes to ourselves can be even harder than doing so publicly. We don’t want to feel as if we’ve messed up. As a result we self-justify, we rationalize and make excuses as to why it wasn’t a mistake at all. This may make us feel better in the short term, but it robs us of a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow.
How to View Mistakes
A mindset is a mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and reasons to situations. There are two types of mindsets: fixed and growth.
A person with a fixed mindset avoids challenges, gives up easily, sees effort as fruitless and fails to learn from their experiences. Conversely, people with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persist despite hardships and learn from their mistakes.
A key to developing a growth mindset is to control your self talk. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” try saying, “What am I missing?” Rather than beating yourself because you made a mistake, remind yourself that mistakes help you improve.
Unless you are aware that you are making mistakes, you will never be able to learn from them. When your brain steps in to protect you from feeling bad, it is stifling your growth potential. The first step, then, is to realize when you are self justifying and not taking responsibility for your mistakes. There is always something that you have done that you can do differently in the future to bring about a better result.
Take a moment to reflect and determine critical factor that you can change within the mistake process. You will then be able to transform an experience of failure into one of growth. Remember the immortal words of Thomas Edison when asked about the years he spent trying to produce workable electric light-bulb:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
The fact that Edison didn’t repeat any of his ‘mistakes’ is why you have electricity in your home today. So, take a leaf from his book and resolve to embrace your mistakes.
Turn Decisions into Experiments
Every action begins with a decision. Sometimes we make the wrong decision which can cause us to make a mistake. A misstep can bring on a wave of emotion that causes self-condemnation and, as we’ve seen, self-justification. Neither of these responses is healthy. However, when we are able to change the way that we view our decisions, we can avoid such negative reactions.
By seeing our decisions as experiments, we are able to make decisions based on their outcomes. In a science experiment, we may try a number of options before we arrive at a successful outcome, just as Edison did. We don’t become emotionally invested in the failed experiments; we see them as markers to a successful outcome. By viewing our decisions in the same way, we will be able to divest ourselves of the emotional baggage that keeps us from learning from them.
You can turn your decisions into experiments by viewing the outcome of a decision as something to learn from. It will either be a marker to tell you to keep going or an indication to try another option. Either way, train yourself to view the situation analytically and you will be able to discover the gem of experience within it.
Learning from Your Mistakes
Learning from your mistakes involves a four step strategy:
- Taking responsibility and ownership for your mistakes;
- Looking for the root of the mistake;
- Identifying the changed behaviors that will avoid repetition of the mistake; and
- Implementing strategies to help you make those changes.
By applying these strategies you will be recalling your mistakes in a constructive way. Rather than ignoring it, or letting the memory of it hang over you like a dark cloud, you will be able to retrieve the little nugget of wisdom that is contained within your mistake to make you a more successful person.
Applications in the Ring
Learning from your mistakes has direct impact on your performance in the Gloveworx boxing ring. In the ring, you will get immediate feedback on your mistakes in the form of physical pain. If you are able to apply the four steps above while in the ring you will become a better, more adept boxer. Rather than simply concluding that your opponent is better, or delivered a lucky punch, identify the mistake that has left you open, caused an over-reach or telegraphed your punch and immediately take action to correct it. Do this consistently and you will Become Unstoppable – both in and out of the ring.