By Harry Petsanis and Donna McCance
Mistakes are an incorrect or unintended result caused by flawed judgment, biases, not paying attention, miscalculating, ignorance, laziness, stress, taking “short cuts,” overconfidence, hurrying, carelessness, inaccurate expectations, poor reasoning, failing to recognize something, not thinking things through, not caring, and trying something unknown or new.
Mistakes can be avoided when the focus is put on the process prior to the mistake happening, as well as assessing the process after the mistake happens. Learning comes from understanding why and how something happened so it doesn’t happen again. If we don’t assess the why and how, there’s no learning.
We weren’t born knowing everything. Learning is trying to figure things out that are unfamiliar to us. Sometimes the results aren’t what we expected, but they can be viewed as learning experiences when we assess where actions led to unintended outcomes. Problem solving in math is a good example of this. As students, when we practice math problems, we sometimes see the answer isn’t the expected outcome. We then go back and see where we made an error. This is learning from the process that led to the mistake.
People focus on saying “I made a mistake” because the focus is on the result, absolving themselves from the process of accountability. They sometimes say “Shit happens” or “I’m only human.” Yes, we all make mistakes, but many of our mistakes are the result of the poor choices from making poor decisions.
Just verbalizing that you made a mistake, without looking at the process that led to it, is not taking responsibility for your actions and not taking accountability, which pretty much guarantees the mistake will happen again.
Many people will admit to making mistakes so that they don’t have to admit that they made poor choices and poor decisions. They separate themselves from offering any explanation or evidence of wrongdoing from their actions. Mistakes don’t just happen without action and will continue to occur until people are willing to be self-aware, take accountability, and look at their actions. (See our Blog on Accountability, November 8, 2021)
People like to use the term mistake because in their minds, it is an end all. If you admit to making poor choices and poor decisions, it implies that you need to take accountability. This means admitting it, thinking about it, absorbing it, reflecting on it, and learning from it, so as not to do it again. People use their egos to defend their self image, even when they’re blatantly wrong.
The following are some steps you can take to help you develop accountability for the mistakes that happen as a result of your poor choices and poor decisions:
Admit it: Acknowledge that your actions (choices and decisions) led to the outcome, rather than just saying “I made a mistake” and moving on from it.
Think about it: Write in a journal about the experience that led to the undesired outcome. Focus on details and actions about the “how and why” to guide your thinking. As you write about what happened, it will help you to absorb it.
Reflect on it: Identify where you made your poor decisions and poor choices and how they contributed to the problem. Your choices come from the decisions you’ve made based on a thoughtful process. Are you making thoughtful decisions so that you can make the right choices?
Learn from it: Ask yourself, “What will I do so that I will not repeat this again?” When you make plans, take into consideration what you learned to do, and what you learned not to do so as not to repeat the actions that lead to mistakes.
About the Authors
Harry Petsanis is a philosopher of human nature, mindset consultant, and lifelong fitness and nutrition expert. He is a writer and author, with three published books: “The Truth is A Lie,” “The Logical Path To Life,” and "Knowing Me from A to Z, A Child's Mindset," which he co-authored with Donna McCance. Harry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He has an intense passion for psychology and the human condition.
Click here to order Harry Petsanis’s books.
Donna McCance, M.Ed. is a business administrator, writer, author, licensed teacher and principal/vice principal with over 20 years experience teaching in elementary education and educational leadership. She has a Masters in Education, Masters in Human Services Management, Bachelors in Business Administration and Associates in Business Administration.