When you make a mistake, you feel it. There’s an energy to it. It’s an energy that screams from your brain “Pay attention to me now!” So, how do you learn from a mistake, yet still get done with what you’re doing?
Let’s start by acknowledging that this “annoying” and sometimes “angry” energy is reshaping your mind. This energy can even be interpreted as pain. Often people will even say “Ow!”, “Shucks” or other stand-in words for cuss words. However, that growing “pain” is just the brain’s amygdala at work.
Although what the amygdala does is a key part of storing memories, it’s important to not have a knee-jerk response to every single thing the amygdala screams. If it helps, you can take comfort in knowing that there’s some good news about the mistake you made.
As pointed out in Mistakes Grow Your Brain, the good news is that your brain grows when you make a mistake. This even happens whether or not you are fully conscious of the mistake! The bad news is that it’s too common for us to beat ourselves up over a mistake. As George Mumford put it in the 10% Happier meditation app in “The Yips” section, “We dog ourselves.”
The right move to make is to recognize the mistake, acknowledge it, and then let it go. “What a minute!”, you might say. “I can’t just let it go! Don’t I need to learn from the mistake?”
Yes! Absolutely. History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from our past mistakes. The key phrase is “past mistakes.” What George Mumford suggests in the “You’re Not the Mistake” section of the 10% Happier meditation app is to do a “Post Play Reflection” or a “Post Performance Reflection” (PPR). However, you do the PPR later when it’s appropriate. In the immediate, you let go of it in a special way. I call this the “Let Go Learn From” method.
Let Go Learn From
Inspired by George Mumford, here’s the letting go part of the Let Go Learn From method:
- You made a mistake.
- Acknowledge it.
- Record the mistake somewhere.
- Avoid the negative self talk. See Lose Negative Self Talk By Losing Yourself
- Let it go. (This is where meditation helps.)
- Schedule in a PPR.
Where do I record the mistake? Here’s something that I learned from my Dad. Almost always, I keep a pen and notecards near me. If I don’t have those, I have my smartphone and use the notes app. That way I can record my mistakes and ideas throughout the day. This technique is especially critical during conversations. Tweet me on Twitter at @FinneyCanHelp, if you want to know more about this.
Let Go Learn From
Based in part on George’s PPR suggestions, here’s the “learning from” part of the process:
- What was the mistake?
- What would you do differently next time?
- Play it out in your head again, but this time play it out with the mistake corrected.
In other words, replay the event in your mind as you wish it had happened. This lets you face the future with confidence based on a foundation that is structured from your new found wisdom.
Learn, Let Go, and Flow
As I shared in Mindfully Living the Path of Ease:
In self-improvement, winning is achieved by flowing towards a direction.
Sometimes you don’t know you’re flowing in the wrong direction and making mistakes helps you know that. So, take the energy from the mistake made as merely a recognition that you have gotten off track. Use that recognition as feedback into your self-improvement process.
Everybody makes mistakes, but not everyone grows in wisdom from them. As a gift to humanity, grow and share your wisdom. While you’re at it, please also share this post with others. Thank you.