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The One Mistake People Make When Learning From Their Mistakes

The One Mistake People Make When Learning From Their Mistakes


    If you’re reading this blog (and particularly this post), it’s safe to say that you are into self-improvement.

    Who else would want to correct mistakes they might be making when learning from their mistakes.

    We can all agree that part of achieving personal mastery is to transform mistakes, failures and setbacks into learning opportunities that will make us stronger for the future. Mistakes are great because we just can’t learn that much from our successes but what most people don’t realize is that when they are learning from their negative experiences, they may be inadvertently making a harmful mistake.

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    One summer, I was riding my bike around the block when a few kids from another neighborhood asked to ride my bicycle and agreed to let me hold one of their bicycles for insurance. I had a bad feeling but I was young and naive so I agreed. After the first child rode off with my bike, they proceeded to push me aside and took their bike back and rode off. After trying to chase them for several blocks to no avail, I decided to head home, devastated.

    What I didn’t mention in the beginning of this story was that it was actually my older brother’s bicycle. He had just put on some new brakes and this was the first time he let me take it out for a ride. I delayed going home because I was so afraid to tell my brother for fear of retaliation but luckily for me and to my surprise, my brother was very caring and understanding. He didn’t even yell at me.

    Needless to say, I learned a lesson that day: Don’t lend my bicycle to strangers and more generally, trust my intuition.

    This experience strengthened me as a person but when I was learning from this, I made one big mistake: I held on to the negative experience to remind myself of the lesson.

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    I used to think it was necessary to vividly replay the “negative” experience to remind myself of the lesson I learned. I feared that if I forgot about the mistake, I would forget the valuable lesson.

    What I didn’t realize was that by replaying the negative experience, I was actually filling my mind with negative thoughts such as shame, humiliation, and helplessness — all of which are not great ingredients for building a healthy self-image. When you repeat this type of thinking in a habitual way, even if your intentions are good, you’re going to experience lower self-esteem because that’s what you’re subconsciously feeding into your mind.

    Mistakes are a necessary step to learning but once the lesson is learned, there is no need to dwell on the actual experience itself. The focus should be on the lesson and how you will apply this positive takeaway to other situations in the future.

    What’s scary is that parents unknowingly lower the self esteem of their kids by reminding them of their mistakes. I hear it all the time:

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    “Johnny, remember the time when you didn’t listen to your mother and touched the stove and burned your hand really badly?”

    or…

    “Lisa is always tripping over things. She is the clumsy one in the family.”

    I understand that the parents’ intentions are good, but good intentions do not necessarily translate into positive behaviors. When someone close to you makes a recurring mistake, focus on clarifying the lesson in the mistake and stop reminding that person of the actual mistake.

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    Remember the lesson, forget the experience.

    (Photo credit: Fixing a Mistake via Shutterstock)

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    Robert Chen

    Executive Coach

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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