The Most Important Career Lessons Are the Ones You Learn From Your Mistakes
Making mistakes never feels great. But there’s a silver lining: mistakes can teach you lessons that can actually help facilitate both self improvement and career advancement. It can be hard to move past the sting of missteps or failures, but if you’re able to see them as opportunities to grow and improve, they can actually help you move forward with greater strength and purpose.
Here are five ways that learning from your mistakes will help your career:
1. They can be your biggest teachers.
Writer and philosopher John Dewey once wrote, “Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”
It can be a difficult thing to take a step back and view a mistake as an opportunity to learn. If you need to wallow for a few minutes, it’s only natural. But once you’re able to look at the situation with new eyes, you’ll likely find that there is some wisdom to be taken from making a mistake or suffering a failure.
No, you can’t change the past. But what happened can help inform you for the future. By taking the time to evaluate what went wrong and where you could have done things differently, you’ll be able to avoid the same fate next time.
2. An opportunity to revisit your goals.
What if instead of viewing your mistakes as failures or dead ends, you saw them as a chance to branch off and take a new path?
When you make mistakes, it can be a good opportunity to revisit your goals and take stock of your career. Could the mistake have been the result of a lack of motivation or passion? If so, could you make changes to your goals or clarify them to help revive your drive to succeed?
In this way, mistakes can be a catalyst for positive change, and that can be a very good thing for your career--and your state of mind.
3. Mistakes can make you stronger.
As the adage goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. This can be true...but only if you learn from your mistakes.
Mistakes have a way of revealing weaknesses, shortcomings, and insecurities. This can be part of why they hurt so much: they are a startling reminder of our vulnerabilities.
However, you can leverage this to your advantage. For instance, if you made a blunder in a proposal you wrote, it could be a clear sign you need to work on becoming a better writer or communicator. If you slept in and missed an important meeting, it could be a sign that you need to make some lifestyle changes so that you can be refreshed and sharp for the next one.
By taking note of the root cause of mistakes and working to strengthen your weaknesses, you’ll become much stronger in your career.
4. Avoid bigger mistakes.
When you were a kid, you were probably told not to touch the hot burners on the stove. If you did, you got burned and probably learned your lesson pretty fast. Very few people would touch a hot burner over and over again, because it hurts.
Mistakes in the workplace might not come with the same physical pain, but they can wreak emotional havoc that you probably don’t want to feel again any time soon. When you’re able to learn from your mistakes, you can take away powerful lessons that can help you avoid the same errors in the future. This means that a relatively small mistake now could shield you from a much bigger one later on.
5. Mistakes keep you humble (in a good way).
No doubt about it: when you make a mistake, it has a way of humbling you right fast. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you coast through your career with zero setbacks, it has a way of distorting reality over time. You might start to feel like the rules don’t apply to you.
Unfortunately, this can give you a sense of entitlement that might not make you popular with colleagues or co-workers. It also means that if and when you do make a mistake, it’s going to hurt all the more because you’re not mentally prepared to deal with it.
Mistakes are a natural part of the process while ascending in your career. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Mistakes keep you humble, keep you striving and keep you improving and becoming better every day. This humbleness will help you relate to other people better, and it will also keep you seeking and learning every day.