3 Mental Frameworks That Will Allow You to Learn From Your Mistakes

They're proven to help you turn slip-ups into step-ups.

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Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash
Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

Do you ever examine a cookie to make sure it’s chocolate chip and not raisin before stuffing it in your mouth? Do you check and double-check that you have your keys in your pocket before locking your car? Have you ever read bizarre instructions (“Do not dry pets in convection oven”) and wondered from whence they originated? 

You might, if you’ve ever gotten a mouthful of raisins you didn’t want, locked your keys in your car too many times, or purchased a product from a company that was sued by an irresponsible consumer. These behaviors are all results of learning from a mistake.

Even if none of the above applies to you, making mistakes certainly does; mistakes are a fundamental part of life. Instead of allowing them to bring us down, though, you can learn to accept them as opportunities to grow — all you need is the right mindset.

Here are three mental frameworks to help you turn slip-ups into step-ups:

1. Recognize their value

Science has proven that mistakes lead to growth, especially in people who believe that to be true. In other words, if you spend less effort and energy avoiding mistakes and instead focus your efforts on embracing them, you open yourself to numerous opportunities for growth and progress. 

2. Accept responsibility

One sure way to prevent growth in yourself is to find someone else to blame. Accepting responsibility for (and the consequences of) mistakes can be difficult, but remember that the goal is growth! There’s blame enough to go around, and even if the situation really is partly someone else’s fault, it’s more efficient to focus most acutely on your own mistakes. This is in part practical, since the easiest person in the room for you to change is the one in the mirror. 

3. Be open to change

Wait, aren’t mistakes good? Shouldn’t we keep making them? 

Mistakes are, by definition, things we do either unintentionally or with an unintended result. If we repeat what we know to be an error, it ceases to be a true mistake and it becomes less likely to lead to growth. 

Once you’ve recognized the value of making mistakes and consequently accepted responsibility for them, you can now examine the mistake with the intention to change. Why did you make that mistake? Were you lacking in knowledge or experience? Were you too confident or careless? How can you improve the result in the future? 

With an appreciation for error, the acceptance of responsibility, and the ability and willingness to change, mistakes can go from foe to friend — and that can ultimately be the foundation of your success. After all, in the words of Elon Musk, “If things are not failing, you’re not innovating enough.” 

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