i‑Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Independent Learning

Overcoming Setbacks and Learning From Your Mistakes

As a student progressing through school to university and beyond, you will inevitably face setbacks and make mistakes. Whether it’s getting disappointing exam results, performing poorly in an interview, or not winning a competition, you are bound to encounter some form of setback. It’s a natural part of the learning journey, and if you can respond positively, you will develop resilience and grow, keeping you on the path to long-term success.

Every mistake or setback can be a learning opportunity. For example, if you perform poorly in an exam, use it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and consolidate your knowledge before the next exam. Review your marked exam paper and identify the areas where you lost marks. Are there common mistakes across your answers, or are the mistakes specific to a few topics?

In English, you may discover that you consistently make mistakes with verb tenses, suggesting that you need to revise tenses. Alternatively, you could be struggling with sentence construction, and revisiting parts of speech and overall sentence structure will keep you from making future mistakes. Similarly, in Maths, you might realise that you need to review the order of operations (BIDMAS/BODMAS/PEMDAS) or angle rules to improve your understanding and accuracy.

If you are unsure where you can improve, ask your teacher for feedback. Teachers usually view students who ask for feedback positively as it shows they are proactive learners and are eager to improve.

Occasionally, things outside of your control may have a negative impact on you. If something major impacts your performance, some schools and universities provide support for students with extenuating circumstances (e.g. if you have health or personal problems). This may mean you get extra support or adjustments, such as an extended deadline or opportunity to resit. The best thing to do is inform your teacher to see if any support can be provided. The earlier they know, the earlier they can help you.

At the end of the day, setbacks are only temporary, and, in the scheme of things, they’re not the end of the world. You should take setbacks and mistakes as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Remember that not everything in life will go the way you plan. If something is not going the way you expect, you should continue to try your best. Your success isn’t measured by how many ‘wins’ you achieve but by how you respond to failure. The earlier you learn that mistakes and setbacks are a natural part of the learning journey, the earlier you’ll make the changes you need to succeed.