“A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again.”

– Roy H. Williams, author and marketing expert.

Have you ever found yourself saying “I’ll never do that again” only to find yourself doing the exact same thing just a short time later? If so, you are not alone. All of us have repeated some of our mistakes at one time or another. However, making the same mistakes can be costly in many ways – such as people losing faith in your promises or even in terms of money.

Here are four steps to help you to learn from your mistakes.

  1. Own your mistakes:

You cannot learn anything from a mistake until you admit that you have made it and accept full responsibility for your role in it. Although it is very uncomfortable, admit to it and apologise if necessary. In the long run, people will remember your courage and integrity long after they have forgotten the original mistake.

  1. Reframe your mistake:

How you view your mistakes determines the way that you react to them and what you do next. Chances are that you will view your error in a purely negative light for as long as the initial shock and discomfort about it persist. But, if you can reframe your mistake, for example by using a reframing matrix and reframe it as an opportunity to learn, you will motivate yourself to become more knowledgeable and resilient.

When you’ve acknowledged your mistake, think about what you could do to prevent it from happening again. For example, if you didn’t follow a process properly, consider introducing a more robust checklist or a clearer process document.

Following on from Dweck’s work on mindsets, if you have a “growth” mindset, you likely see mistakes as an opportunity to improve and not as something that you are doomed to repeat because your mindset is “fixed” on the belief that you cannot improve.

  1. Ask yourself tough questions:

Next, you need to analyse your mistake honestly and objectively. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What was I trying to do?
  • What went wrong?
  • When did it go wrong?
  • Why did it go wrong?
  • What could I do better next time?
  • What did I learn from this?
  1. Make a plan:

Beating yourself up for your mistakes will not help you down the road. It is important to spend the bulk of your time thinking about how to do better in the future. Make a plan that will help you avoid making a similar mistake. Be as detailed as possible but remain flexible since your plan may need to change. Whether you find an accountability partner or you track your progress on a calendar, find a way to hold yourself accountable.


Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Dweck, C. (2016). What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means

Medlock, L.S. (2015). Don’t fear failure: Nine powerful lessons we can learn from our mistakes. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dont-fear-failure-9-powerful-lessons-we-can-learn-from-our-mistakes_n_6058380

Morin, A. (2017). 5 ways to turn your mistake into a valuable life lesson. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2017/07/17/5-ways-to-turn-your-mistake-into-a-valuable-life-lesson/#45f64ede1c01

Sicinski, A. (2018). Quit complaining and start learning from your mistakes. Retrieved from https://blog.iqmatrix.com/learn-from-mistakes


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