Learn from your previous mistakes

The well-known definition of insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results. But repeating a failure is not only a sign of insanity, it is a refusal to admit you may not be perfect. To have the emotional maturity to first admit you made a mistake, then to determine what the mistake was and thirdly to take steps to correct that mistake for the next time shows that you’ve grown beyond infancy. One final step in learning from your previous mistakes is realizing that there may not be any way to correct the mistake you’ve made and to be able to move beyond it.

There are at least four different types of mistakes and what you learn from them may depend on your maturity as well as the type of mistake you made.

The first type of mistake is the dumb mistake. This is the mistake of tripping on the sidewalk or touching wet paint. This is the child running from a promised spanking and hiding under the bed. About the only lessons which can be learned from a dumb mistake is that it was dumb to do it, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen again or that you’ve learned anything from the mistake. After all, there will always be rough spots on the sidewalk and we always have that uncontrollable urge to see if the “wet paint” sign is right.

Mistake number two is the simple mistake. This is the mistake where you call your wife by your secretary’s name, or you forget to mail the letter with the rent check. If something like this happens regularly, or if it becomes an issue between yourself and your spouse, you probably need to find a way to remember errands and names. If it’s simply a lack of focus, it’s probably best not to stress out about it. You can learn from this type of mistake that you can be better organized or that you may need to learn some memory techniques.

The third type of mistake is a little more serious. This is the dumb mistake or the simple mistake repeated over and over with either no understanding that it is a mistake, or no understanding of how to change and learn from the mistake so as to get different results the next time. This kind of mistake is known as the serious mistake. This mistake is one that could and should result in a change of thinking. If you lose your job because you are habitually late for work, you can refuse to accept the responsibility for the mistake and refuse to change, or you can continue to be the emotionally immature child who can’t learn from a mistake because they don’t understand that a mistake has been made. Either that or they blame the boss for firing them.

The fourth type of mistake is the most interesting, and also the one from you have the most opportunity to learn. This is the complex mistake. It may be the mistake that was unavoidable given all the sequence of events which led up to the error. This is where the learning comes in. By analyzing the causes, timing, personalities and nature of the mistake, you may recognize that the mistake was simply unavoidable, but you might also be able to use that information to react differently during the process and thereby reach a different result.


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