Drawing on a growing stream of empirical findings that runs across different psychological domains, we demonstrated that systematic reflection stands out as a prominent tool for learning from experience. For decades, failed experiences have been considered the most powerful learning sources. Despite the theoretical and practical relevance, few researchers have investigated whether people can also learn from their successes. We showed that through systematic reflection, people can learn from both their successes and their failures. Studies have further shown that the effectiveness of systematic reflection depends on situational (e.g., reflection focus) and person-based (e.g., conscientiousness) factors. Given today’s unrelenting pace and the abundance of activities in which people are involved, future researchers may want to investigate how to effectively integrate systematic reflection within the busy daily environment of the learner.
The studies reviewed in the research presented here introduce systematic reflection as a meaningful way to draw lessons from our successful and failed experiences and improve our performance accordingly. Finding ways to learn from various forms of experience is important from both a theoretical and a practical point of view. It also exemplifies that Professor Van Helsing was only partly right. We can learn from our failures, but we can also learn from our successes.