Throughout our school years, we are continually asked to show our work to demonstrate how we arrived at our answer. We may not have realized it at the time, but this practice helped prepare us to evaluate our decision quality for the rest of our lives. Each decision we make yields a different outcome: Sometimes our decisions lead to good outcomes and some are seen as failures. We spend our entire lives avoiding mistakes, but examining the process that led to a negative outcome could actually make us more successful in the long run.
Step 1: Acknowledge the Mistake
The first step to learning from a mistake is admitting that a mistake was made. This can be the hardest part because no one wants to admit they negatively impacted their team or organization. Take solace in the fact that everyone is bound to make some kind of mistake in their lives and that many of those mistakes are not fatal.
Step 2: Look at the Big Picture
The next step should be a step backward so you can see the big picture. Once you can clearly see how the mistake was made, you will be able to tell if the mistake was a stupid, simple, involved or complex mistake. Stupid mistakes are the mistakes that just happen, like stubbing your toe or dropping a glass onto the floor. These mistakes rarely have any lasting consequences and preventing them is incredibly difficult. The next kind of mistakes, simple mistakes, are still very easy to make but can have larger consequences. A small lapse in memory about a bill or not anticipating the number of people attending an event could have a much bigger impact on your life.
Involved mistakes take more time and energy to find out where the mistake was made because they are normally mistakes that come out of habit or occur naturally. Losing your composure during a meeting with your boss is easy to do but could lead to you to losing your job. Complex mistakes are the most difficult to identify, if you can’t pinpoint what kind of mistake was made it was likely a complex mistake that will take a great deal of effort to prevent in the future. With this type of mistake it can be incredibly useful to find someone who can walk through the process that failed with you to help pinpoint exactly where the mistake—or mistakes—were made.
Step 3: Preventative Measures
After you have realized a mistake was made and what kind of mistake it was you can begin to rectify the mistake or put preventative measures into place in order to avoid making the same mistake in the future. Each type of mistake requires a different approach at this stage. Stupid mistakes may simply require being more self-aware or moving the furniture that you are always tripping over. Avoiding simple mistakes can be done by creating reminders or lists to help keep you more organized. Breaking a bad habit or behavior can take much longer than just setting an alarm or watching where you walk. You will need to become very self-aware and actively seek out feedback about the behavior or habit to make sure you are making progress. Complex mistakes could take any combination of these tools to fend off these mistakes.
After all is said and done, the process of realizing and preventing mistakes will make you more aware of the choices you are making on a daily basis. Over time you will become less likely to make decisions that could be more detrimental to your life. If you never take the time to evaluate what decision caused the overall failure the way you make decisions will always lead you to the same outcome.