You’re Prone to Make The Same Mistakes Until You Acknowledge Them

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

Actively working to identify, understand, and learn from your mistakes is an important skill in life.

Our mistakes and failures are learning and growth opportunities, they give us the signposts to become more successful.

What holds you back can also make you stronger!

If you don’t make room for mistakes in your life and most importantly learn from them, you’re destined to repeat them.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

A big reason why you are able to admit fault is that you recognize that once you admit what you have done wrong, you can work to make it better, and so you are not threatened by admitting mistakes.

All humans are essentially ego-driven creatures.

It’s never easy to admit you’ve made a mistake, but it’s a crucial step in learning, growing, and improving yourself.

Clinical psychologist and author Jan Harrell says, “We instinctively respond as though we fear we will be killed if we are vulnerable. Because we are a society that focuses on right and wrong, people do not like to admit fault for fear that it diminishes them in the eyes of others and their own sense of self-worth will suffer.”

Despite your best intentions and efforts, mistakes are inevitable.

At some point in your life, you will be wrong.

Mistakes can be hard to digest, so sometimes we double down rather than face them. Our confirmation bias kicks in, causing us to seek out evidence to prove that we are not wrong.

The bigger your goals and ambitions, the bigger and more frequent your mistakes will be, hence the need to acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.

To accept our mistakes, we should not base our success on a lack of mistakes but in growth, courage, intelligence and creativity.

In Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds, Scott Berkun writes, “Progress won’t be a straight line but if you keep learning you will have more successes than failures, and the mistakes you make along the way will help you get to where you want to go.”

You can only learn from a mistake after you admit you’ve made it.

As soon as you start blaming other people (or the universe itself), you distance yourself from any possible lesson.

Learning from mistakes requires three things, says Berkun:

Putting yourself in situations where you can make interesting mistakes, having the self-confidence to admit to them, and being courageous about making changes.

Successful people admit their mistakes easily. They know progress accelerates when they do.

Acknowledging a mistake or blunder feels like a defeat of sorts, making us feel vulnerable, weak and exposed.

It almost seems to signify that we are somehow inadequate.

But humans are subject to imperfection.

We all make mistakes, but cannot hope to learn from them if we cannot admit to them. Admitting mistakes, first to ourselves, and then to others, allows us to channel our energies into self-improvement rather than waste them on covering up our human frailties.

Instead of admitting our mistakes, many people tend to justify them.

In Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, Carol Tavris argues, “Most people, when directly confronted by evidence that they are wrong, do not change their point of view or course of action but justify it even more tenaciously. Even irrefutable evidence is rarely enough to pierce the mental armor of self-justification.”

The tendency to reduce the feeling of cognitive dissonance, or the unpleasant feeling of having two conflicting ideas in our heads often lead to self-justification.

Self-justifications distort reality.

Most dangerously, one self-justification begets another, setting off a domino effect that sends you more and more off track.

Fight the confirmation bias

One of the tricks our mind plays is to highlight evidence which confirms what we already believe.

Confirmation bias is OK if you are right, but in many situations when we’re wrong, we only pay attention to the deciding evidence when it’s too late.

We tend to latch onto information that flatters our preexisting beliefs, and shun information that contradicts it.

Knowing this, we need to consciously tamp down our knee-jerk reaction to an opposing viewpoint and try to listen open-mindedly before rendering judgment.

We must in fact actively and purposefully seek out those different viewpoints, even when our brain keeps trying to drag us back to the comfortable confines of our like-minded tribe.

Showing capacity for growth is an incredibly vital skill.

Admitting mistakes at work provides a chance to show your creatively and problem-solving skills.

You can turn a negative situation into a valuable strength just by accepting fault and learning from it.

How you handle your mistakes is more important than how you made them.

Accepting responsibility makes learning possible.

By all means, avoid the passive voice.

Someone dodging responsibility says, “Mistakes were made.” Someone taking responsibility says, “I made a mistake.”

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, a former psychologist and professor at Yale University, indicates that, instead of dwelling on your mistakes, you need to practice adaptive self-reflection.

This means taking the time to reflect on your mistakes with the purpose of identifying how you need to alter your behavior so that you can do better the next time.

You can differentiate between rumination and adaptive self-reflection by asking yourself the following:

  • Is this keeping me stuck in the past? Then it’s rumination.
  • Is this helping me to learn and grow? Then it’s adaptive self-reflection.

Dale Canegie once advised, “ When you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” That advice that has been around since 1935, the year Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Carnegie observed the lives of successful people during his day and looked at what worked for him when he wrote that classic book.

The advise still holds true today.

You can’t learn from your mistakes if you can’t acknowledge you’ve made them! And if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re destined to repeat them.

That’s a recipe for quickly going nowhere in life.

Admitting your fault puts you one step closer to dealing with it, and can often be the first step towards a successful turn-around.

Before you go…

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