The Advantages of Failure -Learning From Our Mistakes

 The Advantages of Failure – Learning From Our Mistakes 

Everyone fails sometimes. We can’t always do everything right all of the time.  Many motivational writers and coaches now suggest that failure is something we should celebrate.


Don't let failure discourage you from studying. Discover how embracing failure can actually help you learn and succeed. Read on for expert tips on how to turn your mistakes into advantages and achieve your academic goals.


A Stepping Stone

Failure and disappointment should be seen as a stepping stone to success.  Instead of feeling upset and despairing when we fail, we should see it as a move towards future success.

For example –

Roxanne completes a photography project and fails. She receives feedback on how to improve next time, but she gets irritated and thinks the tutors have been unfair.  She doesn’t bother to attend any tutorials for the next projects as she thinks the tutors don’t like her, so they are biased. She ignores the feedback and gets a similar result next time.

Florence completes the same photography project and also fails. She receives feedback on how to improve next time. She reads the feedback. She attends all of her tutorials and makes sure that tries to do what the tutors suggest. She gets a much higher grade in her next project.

Florence takes advantage of her failure. Roxanne doesn’t. Florence uses the feedback from her tutor on how to improve. She uses her failure as a stepping stone to improvement in the future.

Growth Mindset

People who have a fixed mindset think that things are not their fault. Roxanne thinks that she got a poor grade because the teachers don’t like her.  A person with a fixed mindset who fails an exam will blame other people. For example, their teacher was rubbish, or their brother kept them awake all night playing drums so they couldn’t revise. 

Sour Grapes Effect

This can also be seen as the sour-grape effect, where we devalue a task we fail, so we don’t bother to persevere in the future to reach goals.

A person with a growth mindset will look at their failures and use that knowledge to improve. They will realise that they can make a change to their performance.

Ostrich Effect

Another way in which people can continue to make mistakes is through the Ostrich Effect.  Roxanne ignored her feedback. She effectively put her head under the sand as she didn’t want to know about the mistakes. She didn’t want to listen.  A businessperson is selling loads of products, so pays attention to what they are sell. Things change and they suddenly stop selling products, sales fall off a cliff, but the businessperson ignores this. They ignore that things are going badly, instead of trying to do something about it.

Continuous Mistakes

Some people will make mistakes over and over again.

  • They fail to listen to feedback
  • They have a fixed mindset
  • They are experiencing the sour-grapes effect
  • They are experiencing the Ostrich effect
  • We don’t notice our errors

Many of us make mistakes over and over, but if we can learn from these mistakes and move on, it can be a valuable lesson.

Don’t Abandon Your Dreams Too Soon

People can make mistakes and think that they will never succeed. So, they give up. A musician might play a song twenty times not very well, then on the twenty-first time they do a lot better.  They will be the musician who will probably do better than the musician who gives up after the fifth attempt. Successful students, researchers, business people, writers, sportspeople, well anyone who is successful really will keep trying until they succeed. They will not give up their dreams too early.

So, if you want to do well. Accept your failures and keep trying. Don’t give up.

Third Person

Instead of thinking “Why did I fail?” Try to be more objective. Refer to yourself in the third person. “Why did William fail?”   Psychologist Ethan Kross found that if we distance ourself from our failures, this can reduce our negative emotions, which helps us see more objectively why and how we have failed. 

Help Others

Eskreis-Winkler and Fishback found that when a person helps someone else who has failed, they become more comfortable with their own failures. If people are struggling with weight loss and talk to other people about their own weight loss journey, this will be more helpful for the individual themselves.

Aim Higher

You may be sitting there thinking – well I never fail! If you never fail, it is likely that you are aiming too low. Everyone fails at some point in their lives – an exam, a driving test, to put up wallpaper well in their new home, to fail to be good at painting. We all fail. 


What Does This Mean For Students?

Pay Attention

Students should pay attention to the feedback they receive and use it to improve. Tutors do not want students to do badly. They want them to do well.  So listen to what tutors have to say and try to work on their suggestions.

If a student finds that they don’t understand or can’t do what the tutor suggests, they should ask for help.

Third Person

If you fail an exam or receive negative feedback, try asking yourself in the third person why you did badly.  For example –

  • What part of that equation did James get wrong?
  • How could Shania improve her painting technique in that picture?
  • How could Deanna organise herself better to get more time to revise for the next exam?

Look at your answers

In research, Fishback found that many people failed to learn from wrong answers. They often remember their correct answers, but not the wrong ones.  So when you get feedback, look at what you got right and what you got wrong. It is important to learn from our mistakes. They help us to improve. Paying attention to what we do well and get right doesn’t help us to improve and move on.

If at first

It’s a cliché, but if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Don’t give up on your dreams. A dream can be small, such as understanding how to do an algebra equation or prune a certain tree properly. But one skill builds on another and another. So don’t give up if you are not good at something. Keep trying.

Failure and ACS

Students don’t always do well. Students need to learn from their mistakes. We don’t encourage students to fail, but at ACS, we work hard to help students to improve and develop in their learning.

  • When students complete an assignment and do not do well, we don’t tell the student they have failed and that’s that. Our tutors give extensive feedback and ask them to have another go at the assignment. This encourages them to try again, learn from the feedback and learn from their mistakes. When the student then passes the assignment, they know that they have learned something.
  • Our assignments build on each other. Assignment 1 of a course encourages a student to learn the first lot of skills and knowledge, assignment 2 builds on that and so on. We encourage our students to grow and develop through the course.
  • When a student completes a course, they can also move onto another course to expand or increase their knowledge.

If you fail. Don’t give up. Continue to try. Anyone who does well in any area of life usually does so because they keep trying.

At ACS, we recognise this.  We know people fail sometimes. But we encourage students to look at what they do well and build on that. But we also encourage students to recognise when they make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

If you would like to learn from your mistakes, and your successes.

If you would like to improve your knowledge and understanding.

Why not study with ACS?  We are here to help you learn from your failures and your successes.

Contact us to find out more about  the courses we offer.


Share this Article

Search the blog

Follow us

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.

I agree for ACS Distance Education to contact me and store my information until I revoke my approval. For more info, view our privacy policy.