I have struggled for years with learning from my mistakes and not repeating the same mistakes over and over. Some mistakes are unavoidable, and it is necessary to take the risk of making mistakes or we will never accomplish anything. Mistakes and failure are part of life. Ideally, we get better at things by making mistakes and learning how to do something better next time. This doesn’t always happen though.
For example, a typical child who is learning to tie his shoes will make many mistakes until he learns how to tie his shoes. After he learns how to tie his shoes correctly and has practiced many times, he might still occasionally make a mistake but will get it right most of the time. Years later, he will tie his shoes the right way every time and not even think about making a mistake because he has learned to tie his shoes.
It took me almost ten years to learn to tie my shoes. I wore velcro shoes for many years as a kid because shoe tying was just too much for me. I still struggle if I buy a new pair of shoes with trying to get them laced properly and trying to figure out how the new laces should tie. I assume that most people probably don’t have this problem.
Even if you’re good at tying shoes, you might have some other mistake you keep making. One of my friends keeps trying to find a boyfriend and keeps dating the same type of guy and wondering why she can’t find the right one. Another of my friends continues to struggle with finding a job; he can’t seem to get the interview right, even though he knows what he’s doing wrong and has had people explain to him how to do things differently. I continue to struggle with not impulsively saying insulting things to people who piss me off.
I would categorize this problem of not learning from our mistakes as a problem with executive functioning. Maybe it’s not that we don’t learn, but that we struggle to apply the lesson in the moment.
From everything I have read, autistic children and adults often struggle with executive functioning in various ways. For example, I was not always good at planning and following through, and sometimes I am still not. It took me many years to learn how to budget my money and not impulsively spend more than I earn. It can be challenging to determine what the consequence will be of a specific action in the moment, even if I have done the exact same thing before.
Cynthia at Musings of an Aspie wrote an excellent series on executive functioning, which I highly recommend if you want to learn more about how some autistic people struggle with executive functioning. Her series helped me understand myself a lot better.
For me, I’ve found that it helps me to write in a journal or on my computer about the things I do each day and the results of my actions. I take many daily inventories. I’ve found that writing things down and having the opportunity to analyze them later helps me to better understand the consequences of my actions. I learn from my mistakes better this way. I still struggle to apply the lessons in the moment, sometimes, but it’s less of a struggle than before.
Do any of the rest of you struggle with making the same mistakes over and over or not learning from your mistakes? What advice would you give to someone who is struggling?
P.S. I can’t say that I understand website analytics or anything like that very well, but I do occasionally look on the wordpress dashboard to see which search terms people use to find my blog. Today, someone ended up here by googling “aspergers and not learning from my mistakes” — which is something I hadn’t previously written about. But it sounded like something I should be writing about, because it’s totally me in so many ways. So thank you, googler, whoever you are, for giving me the idea for this post. I hope you find your way back here.