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5 Things to Do When You Make a Mistake

Mistakes are an unavoidable mark of our humanity. And though the extent of damage caused by them varies, as will the steps required to address them, we all have the opportunity to learn and grow from them. So, to simply ignore our mistakes is a mistake in itself.

Like most people, I don't like making mistakes. Such is my dislike of mistakes that I've been known to double or triple check punctuation and grammar on text messages. However, despite being aware of my dislike of making mistakes, I'm of the belief that embracing them is an important part of my development.
 
So, with mistakes being an inevitable, yet valuable part of our experience, here are five things to consider the next time you make one. Each could prove valuable to your development.

1. Own your mistake

Put differently, take responsibility. In every situation, resist the urge to either duck or skim past what you've done. It's only as you acknowledge and weigh the impact of your mistake, that you'll know how to deal with it.
 
Also, in acknowledging your mistake, you demonstrate to others the importance of having a growth mindset; one which recognises the value of mistakes as part of an ongoing learning cycle.

2. Share your mistake

Mistakes can be embarrassing and in some cases lead to feelings of shame and guilt; emotions which aren’t easy to regulate. However, to avoid more damage, it's important you inform those most likely to be affected.
 
Equally, where you'll likely need help from the right people to rectify your mistake, either through information, guidance or practical support, sharing your mistake is something you'll be unable to avoid.

3. Evaluate your mistake

Setting time aside to evaluate your mistakes is an important step to decreasing the chances of repeating them. As with owning and sharing your mistake, an honest and objective evaluation of your mistakes requires courage. Asking the following questions can make the process more powerful:
  • What was I trying to achieve?
  • What prevented me from achieving it?
  • When did it go wrong?
Reviewing what went wrong will also help you gain understanding and clarity about what may need to change going forward.

4. Find a solution to your mistake

Taking a solution-focused approach, rather than being driven by emotion, will keep you grounded and prevent overthinking. The process of solution finding will also make it less likely that you'll repeat the same mistake again.
 
When looking at your mistake with a focus on finding a solution, you'll also increase your ability to solve problems. This will also serve you well with future planning, as you'll have greater foresight into potential pitfalls.

5. Apply the learning from your mistake

Billionaire Investor, Ray Dalio notes, "Pain, plus reflection, equals progress." He continues, "It's okay for you to make mistakes. It's not okay for you to not learn from those mistakes."
 
So having evaluated what went wrong and identified a solution, applying your learning is a vitally important next step. Afterall, without applying what you've learnt, there'll be no growth or progress.
 
So, as part of your development, determine where changes need to be made and create a plan of action to get them done.

Summary

Regardless of the magnitude of your mistake, the above considerations will help you navigate through them. Applying each will also help you to recover more efficiently and quickly, whilst maintaining the respect of others.
 
So, when you next make a mistake, rather than being too hard on yourself, remind yourself that mistakes are not only part of your everyday human experience, but also a valuable tool for your learning and development.

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