Learning from the Past: How to Use Past Mistakes to Make Better Decisions in Your Future

Throughout our lives we will make mistakes. Some of us will make more than others, and still others will feel like all they make is one mistake after another. We are human. It is our nature to be imperfect, and as such, we cannot be flawless in our decision-making. What we can do, however, is learn from those mistakes so that we make better decisions in the future.

Before being able to learn from the mistakes in your past, you have to be able to honestly and non-defensively look back and examine instances in your past when you made self-sabotaging and self-esteem-lowering life choices because

1.    Your choices weren’t well thought out;

2.    Your emotions clouded your best judgment; or

3.    There was some other decision-making breakdown or flaw.

Once you acknowledge the mistakes you have made, you can move on to learning valuable life lessons from them. In preparation for a future life-choice opportunity, review and think through what went awry the last time you made a self-defeating or self-destructive life-choice!  Take time to decide on what will be a more constructive or beneficial way to handle a similar choice the next time around. Essentially, you will be creating some inner conversations that acknowledge a flawed life choice was made in the past and identify a more effectively thought out strategy for your future.

To illustrate, let’s consider an example. Suppose you had made a past decision to drive under the influence of alcohol, which resulted in you getting a DUI. The inner dialogue for a better future decision might go something like this:

“The last time I was offered too much alcohol at a party/dinner, I continued drinking because I wanted to be social and it seemed harmless at the time. The lapse in judgment resulted in my getting a DUI and I lost my license. It was awful and devastating in many ways.

Next time, after one drink, I will resolutely say, ‘No thanks!’  I don’t want to risk the unthinkable consequences should I lose my license again, and this time, permanently!  Nor do I want to risk the far worse consequence of injuring my children, myself, or someone else should I get into an accident while driving drunk!”

The key to learning from your mistakes is to acknowledge the mistake in the past and develop a revised and significantly more beneficial game plan to implement in the future. The aim of these steps is to secure a far more desirable result the next time a life choice involving a particular stimulus is presented.

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