You’ve heard people say again and again, “I learned more from my mistakes than my successes.” My reply is “I doubt it.”

They’ll spend hours, days, and endless energy trying to correct (or worse defend) a mistake by analyzing and dissecting in post mortem, generally producing a patched up version of the mess they had. If you didn’t like model 101 what are the chances 201 will meet your needs any better? We see it in relationships all the time; people unsuccessfully date or hire the same type, over and over, hoping for something different and better. How often does that work out?

I’m suggesting you run, purge, or even deny connection to failed attempts. Write it off as practice. Confess you had a bad day, a bad idea, or you started from the wrong premise. Admit it seemed pretty good at the moment but now, with hindsight, was ridiculous. Ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” (The answer is probably not enough) and then move on.

To go forward I often have to move away. Work from another location. Wipe the slate clean and start from a different angle. I set up parameters instructing myself what I can and can’t do this time around. If I don’t, the mistake tends to draw me back with a compulsion to fix it. Pride of authorship can be deadly for idea generation.

Maybe this time I’ll start with the final sentence first — like many mystery writers. Would taking a contrarian view help me find the essence of my point? Do I need to, literally, burn it — a tactic a number of creative people I know use to make sure they don’t go back for reference and feel a sense of closure or energizing distress. I’m not sure the method matters as long as it happens.

When it comes to learning from our successes, the key is often seeing the connection between what superficially appears to be unrelated pieces and finding the link. Why was it that my group presentation and that article I wrote were both received extremely well? If it wasn’t the subject matter, my interest in the topics, or the fact I was paid to do each, could it have been that I collaborated with another person and therefore felt less exposed or isolated? Or could it have been that I set aside big chunks of time and immersed myself in what I wanted the audience to leave with? It’s essential to uncover the setups for success if you want to have a series of them.

It’s important to relish your successes, maybe even give yourself a reward. Accept the accolades of respected colleagues and friends. High achievers often minimize success, always striving for the next accomplishment. They do themselves a disservice emotionally and practically. They also ignore an important and expeditious tool of remembering accomplishments.

Here’s my challenge to you.

The next time you fail or experience a disappointment, decide to abandon it and focus on your successes. Banish the mistake with intent and discipline; embrace your triumphs as teachers and cheerleaders. Take time to examine why things went right and give little or no time to what was wrong. Allow the exhilaration of a job well done to drive you, not the humbling, demoralizing messages you and others espouse when something doesn’t go as hoped. Here’s to your successes!

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.