Scientists have estimated that it takes a worm about 100 erroneous tries before it learns that turning left leads to pain (small electroshock) and turning right leads to pleasure (food).
In theory we have been blessed with intellectual, analytical skills and cognitive abilities that are a million times superior than those of a worm. In practice, there are times when we find ourselves dumbstruck, wondering why have we done something so stupid… AGAIN!
While we might not always be able to avoid making mistakes all together, there are a few things we can do to reduce their frequency.
How Not to Make the Same Mistakes?
1. Appreciate yourself.
Taking every little mistake too close to heart, influences our self image and brings our confidence down, which, in turn, leads to more failures and lower self-esteem. Do not beat yourself up for what has gone wrong. There is a huge difference between “trying your best” and “doing everything you are theoretically capable of doing”. Always strive to do your best, but do not approach every task as a personal life challenge.
2. Break the habit.
Have you ever taken the wrong way going somewhere and when, weeks later, you went to the same place, you automatically turned to go in the wrong direction again? As if the erroneous part of the road has been included in the directions that your mind remembered.
Similar, after repeating the same mistake once or twice we become good at doing what does not work. You have probably known people who keep dating the same controlling partners, making the same bad investment decisions and driving their friends crazy by constantly running late for their appointments.
Breaking free from unconstructive habits that result in the same repeated issues is not easy. It requires finding the root cause of the problem, which brings us to the next point…
3. Anticipate history.
Our memory is very selective about what it remembers. Instead of recalling the past accurately, we usually remember selective events that suit our needs or preserve our self-image. This is by far one of the biggest reasons why so many people continue to make bad investment decisions and date partners that are not right for them.
Before making a serious decision, think if you have already encountered a similar situation in the past. What decision did you make back then? What was the outcome? Try to be objective, when recalling both your wins and your misses.
4. Do not insist on being right.
Sometimes when we make a mistake our ego takes over and we refuse to admit it. Instead of learning from the mistake and moving on, we stubbornly search for the facts that will justify our actions and make us look right in our own eyes.
Obviously, there is no way of changing something we do not acknowledge. There is no growing or improving our relationships either.
5. Be on the lookout for the lesson.
If you continue to experience the same issue or challenge time and again, it most likely means that there is more for you to learn. It is not a bad thing. It is only an opportunity to gather more insights that you might not have grasped the first time you encountered the similar challenge. Often these lessons are the keys to our success, because they build the foundation for our amazing future accomplishments.
6. Talk about it with another person.
Sages say that all the answers we need are already within us. It is just a matter of bringing them into the light.
I have noticed that when I am worried about taking the wrong course of action, it helps me to share my doubts with another person. Not so much as to get advice (although, it could be very helpful at times), but to voice the problem and the possible solution out loud. Often as we are explaining our issue to someone else the clarity and understanding of exactly what to do dawns on us out of nowhere.
7. Engage both sides of your brain.
When we are faced with difficult decisions where even a tiny mistake can cost us dearly, relying solely on logic or blindly following our intuition may not be the optimal course of action. We need to make both the logical and creative sides of our brain collaborate and supplement each other. Here are 9 creative activities that can help you do just that.
8. Ask the right questions.
Often the line that separates a genius from a regular person is the correctly posed question.
If Newton had not ask himself why objects fall to the ground, if as a child Einstein had not wondered what it would be like to ride a light beam, discoveries like gravity, and space ships may not have been made.
When making a decision, try to adopt the same way of thinking. Whatever problem you are facing, try writing it down from three or four different perspectives. You will be surprised at how often these problems, looked at in the right light, can turn into opportunities.
9. Take fear out of the equation
Fear of failure is by far the strongest force that holds people below their potential. If you constantly ask yourself “What could happen if I do X,Y,Z?” you will quickly enter “deer in the headlights” state, unable to do anything (even as you see the problems getting bigger and heading towards you).
On the other hand, if you reframe the question and ask yourself “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?” you would most likely come up with the best possible decision.
Besides, if you focus too much on avoiding mistakes and failure, guess what you will attract into your life? More mistakes…
10. Tell yourself that you have plenty of time.
I know a few people who manage to make the right decisions under pressure. The reason that they are so great at it, is because they do not let stress and agitation get to them. Whenever you feel stressed out, agitated or overwhelmed, take a deep breath and tell yourself that you have plenty of time to make the right decision.
After all, making mistakes is part of being a human. Avoid repeating the same mistakes is part of the path to wisdom.