How to learn from your mistakes? (with extremely useful quotes)

To err is human, as the famous saying goes… you might roll your eyes at the title of this article blaring at you as if mocking you. You might expect another set of rigid ‘instructions’ you probably already are aware of and you’re wondering if it is worth it to walk the extra mile and read something you might forget, assuming its banality.

I would never search up an article on how I can learn from my mistakes; I would rather learn how to do that on my own, which is exactly why I’m here writing this blog post; a perspective on the inevitability of making mistakes and how to learn from them in a way that blends into your way of living and how you conceive the world.

The far-flung consequences of our actions become known to us as we progress through life, and the ever-echoing aftermath of our mistakes even more so. I am sure you might have heard of the butterfly effect; in simple words, it states how every little change leads to a significant difference in the future.

Imagine a butterfly flapping its wings, only to cause a typhoon; as Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman from their novel Good Omens, said:

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”

P.S: I found a really cool song called The Butterfly Effect by Before You Exit. Play it here:

The Butterfly Effect by Before Your Exit

The Butterfly Effect
The Butterfly Effect in chaos theory

Taking into account this effect, our mistakes seem to enlarge over time and sometimes become repetitive, so much so that we become accustomed to making the same mistakes all over again and we begin to wonder if there is something inherently wrong with us.

In his many lectures, Jordan B. Peterson, the now-famed Canadian clinical psychologist and a YouTube star, walks us through a narrow path between utopia and the collapse into cynicism; he also writes in detail on topics many would tiptoe around, such as why it is important to choose friends who would be good for us. Anyway, mistakes are unavoidable, and to learn from them is an absolute necessity to give your life meaning. A part of what Peterson said in his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos has stuck with me:

“Sometimes, when people have a low opinion of their own worth—or, perhaps, when they refuse responsibility for their lives—they choose a new acquaintance, of precisely the type who proved troublesome in the past. Such people don’t believe that they deserve any better—so they don’t go looking for it.

Or, perhaps, they don’t want the trouble of better. Freud called this a “repetition compulsion.” He thought of it as an unconscious drive to repeat the horrors of the past—sometimes, perhaps, to formulate those horrors more precisely, sometimes to attempt more active mastery and sometimes, perhaps, because no alternatives beckon.

People create their worlds with the tools they have directly at hand. Faulty tools produce faulty results. Repeated use of the same faulty tools produces the same faulty results. It is in this manner that those who fail to learn from the past doom themselves to repeat it. It’s partly fate. It’s partly inability. It’s partly … unwillingness to learn? Refusal to learn? Motivated refusal to learn?”

Learning from mistakes

You made a mistake, now what?

The initial reaction of any sane person after making a mistake would be to question themselves in the worst possible way. An onset of a nihilistic episode could take place, or worse; they could transform into their own worst enemies (who isn’t these days though?).

Maybe you got a bad grade on a test- a D maybe, and you begin to question your intelligence that slowly gives in to beating yourself up for not studying enough and then to guilt for all those things you did when really you should’ve been studying.

The first thing to do is here is to not jump to a drastic conclusion, but rather to assume that you are reprehensible to a degree that can mark as bare minimum.

In Peterson’s words, “Don’t pick yourself apart any more than is absolutely necessary.”

It is possible we are overly harsh upon ourselves mostly because of other people; maybe we have grown up with strict parents or grandparents and we are hyper conscientious when it comes to making mistakes. Either way, constantly chiding yourself wouldn’t get you anywhere but into a deeper hole of self-loathing.

Which part of the structure needs attention?

To learn from our mistakes, it is important to know where the error originates from in the first place. You cannot simply upend your entire routine because you got a bad grade on your test, or you cannot give up making friends just because your last friend turned out to be an absolute piece of shit.

You got a bad grade either because you are very stupid or because you didn’t study as much as you should have. The likelihood of the latter is more than the former though. What you can do, now, is to incorporate small increments of change into your routine to rectify your mistake and to avoid repeating one in the future.

You can polish your work ethic by studying for the subject for an extra 20 more minutes every day, for example. Minimal change, minimal difference is key here, not an immense transformation that you wouldn’t be able to handle after a few days.

Learning from mistakes through focusing on what needs attention
Focus on what needs attention

Observe the patterns in your life.

Your entire life is cause and effect. What you do, what decisions you make, what responsibility you choose or choose not to undertake decides your fate. Your brain has a way of letting you know when you decided to sleep on a problem and never got around to fixing it.

So, you keep making the same mistakes because you keep running into situations where the likelihood of you making the same mistake is greater. Unless you fix your mistake, you would never be able to move forward to making new mistakes. It is like the entire universe has conspired in trying to compel you to learn a lesson (Did you notice the twist on Paulo Coelho’s quote right there?). Stop procrastinating over what you have to fix if you don’t want to be stuck in the same place forever.

The question is, how do you fix it?

By trying to figure out how the situation rose that caused you to make a mistake in the first place. It is not easy, and it is a very sticky process, and it takes time and grit and will to get through to realizing your mistake and how it amplified, but you can do it when the recurrence of an overdone event has exhausted you to your very bones and all you want is a ‘different you’.

Patterns to notice
Observe the patterns in your life

Make it harder to mess up.

It is harder to make mistakes when you are used to doing something; in simple words, the right habits place you on a pedestal in comparison to those who rely on small bursts of motivation and temporary, day-to-day inspiration.

Ever heard of the Compound Effect?

Small simple things to do consistently for a long while to see radical change in your life?

Yes.

This makes it harder for you to make mistakes in the first place. I mean, you would make mistakes. Every day. Without fail. But at least you won’t be making the same mistake again when you try to work on something small every day over time.

Maybe you would like to meditate for ten minutes every day to keep you from getting anxious in the morning that can lead to you making unconscious decisions and eventually to making mistakes you would usually not make when you’re focused. Or maybe you want to work on yourself internally to reign in your anger and how you react to a triggering stimulus. Whatever it is, it can be achieved. Only if you are willing to take the first small step in realizing it.

Written by Dua Khan

2 thoughts on “How to learn from your mistakes? (with extremely useful quotes)

  1. Great concrete tips here. Most importantly, it encourages people to not fear mistakes. It’s how we learn, anyways. In fact, going through a life of mistakes is arguably more beneficial than going through one that’s smooth sailing all the time. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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