Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER, where I discuss the topic of Mistakes.
Mistakes Are Your Feedback System
The second principle of mental conduct is to learn from your mistakes. In the preceding section, I talked about how we are constantly evaluating ourselves as if we are onstage and how we tend to hide our weaknesses to put ourselves in a better light, thereby hoping to give ourselves a higher performance rating. For the same reason, we tend to hide our mistakes. Just as we think a good performer shouldn’t be weak, we think a good performer shouldn’t make mistakes. So when we do make a mistake, we believe that the more quickly we get it out of sight and move on, the better. Think about it for a moment. When we have made a mistake, one of the things we immediately do is try to cover it up, make excuses for it, or justify it. We’ll do almost anything to get away from it rather than look long and hard at it.
What we don’t realize is that mistakes are part of a natural feedback system when we are learning a task or accomplishing a goal. That’s all.
Imagine a gymnastics student learning to do a back flip for the first time. As he strives to imitate the movement as best he can, the teacher tells him two things: what he did correctly, and what he did incorrectly. That is called positive and negative feedback. The positive feedback describes his right action, and the negative feedback describes his mistakes. Can you see how knowledge of mistakes is as important in the learning process as knowledge of right actions? When you know what is not correct, you can then consciously strive to avoid the mistake and duplicate the right action. Precise knowledge of correct and incorrect, then, forms the basis of our conscious choices and actions, and that speeds up the learning process.
Now imagine a person striving to get promoted in her workplace. Perhaps she calls attention to herself by bragging and showing off. To make herself look better, she calls attention to deficiencies in coworkers. After a while, she is fired instead of promoted. Did she make a mistake? Absolutely. She must now regard that mistake as feedback on what not to do to get a promotion. She still has to learn what she needs to do, of course, and may make more mistakes in the process of finding the right action to take.
The key is to keep going. She must not let her mistakes be excuses for giving up or allow her self-condemnation to paralyze her future actions. If her goal is worth achieving, she must be willing to persist through every form of failure, always regarding it as a learning experience, as feedback, until she hits upon the right action for success.