3 reasons why we repeat the same mistakes over and over again?

‘Learn from your failures’ is a mantra thrown around over and over again. But, do we? Why do we repeat the same mistakes over and over again?

As this research gate article points out that individuals and organizations should learn from their failures is common sense at this point. But, organizations that actually learn from their failures are rare. Why does this happen?

1. GI Joe Fallacy

Huh? What fallacy?

Laurie Santos defines it as ‘The mistaken idea that knowing is the half the battle’. Knowing means very little in terms of achieving something. It’s only the first step. Yes, in certain fields, knowledge gives an advantage but knowing is not even half than enough. Laurie and her colleague were studying cognitive biases and they found that people still make those mistakes even while being aware of the biases.

Being hungry makes us grumpy and we give unfavorable decisions against others while we are hungry. But, does knowing that help us tackle that? Her research says, ‘nope’. We will give bad reviews to things if we are writing a review hungry even when we know.

It’s an uphill battle of changing our environment, circumstances and practice.

Knowing is not half the battle for most cognitive biases, including the G. I. Joe Fallacy. Simply recognizing that the G. I. Joe Fallacy exists is not sufficient for avoiding its grasp.

Laurie Santos

2. We shy away from admitting failures

The thing is all of us have that social acceptance seeking part in us. We want to be known and we want people to know good things about us. When we post things on social media, we always post our successes. We are vocal about our successes, and hide our failures under the rug.

Part of the reason why this might be is because from early on in life, our failures were awarded with punishments. Nobody rewards failures. We are not taught how to fail the right way and learn from our minor failures so we don’t turn our life into a disaster.

Because, hiding these small minor failure will eventually make our failures pile up until all of it is a huge disaster.

Jet Airways failed recently. We didn’t know anything about it until it was a huge disaster. It must have started from a single employee making a small mistake that they hid, the mistakes piled up until it was management’s responsibility and the management hid it and the upper management hid it. Now, they struggled to secure an emergency funding. A huge disaster stems from tiniest of failures which when addressed there are then much rather is better.

The research gate article mentions something about learning to fail intelligently. Experimentation and failing deliberately might help us acknowledge failure and derive lessons from it, rather than treating it as something to avoid. As mentioned above, when we create a culture of ignoring failures, we move towards the direction of a disaster.

3. Bad habits

Our habits dictate our day to day behavior. Some people are avid readers. They don’t need to be told to read. They don’t need to be forced to. They just do it. Because, it’s out of their habit. They might feel uncomfortable if they don’t read a little each day. Same with smoking. A chain smoker may feel uncomfortable when they don’t smoke in a while.

A habit wasn’t formed in a day. It takes time. It takes gradual practice. I mentioned a Japanese technique called ‘Kaizen’ in this article. We might have a habit of spending hours upon hours in a cafe with friends not focusing on important things we need to do. We might have a habit of watching youtube videos all night instead of sleeping or doing the assignments we are assigned to. Habits can be a little hard to change and require small continuous effort to change.


It’s okay. We might fail over and over again trying to do the same thing. The important part is to know that we are failing and know why we are failing first, embracing the failure and making continuous effort to change the habits to change these failures.

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