Living In Gratitude: Learning From Mistakes
Each experience is a stepping-stone in life, including any so-called mistakes. Love yourself for all your mistakes, they have been very valuable to you. They have taught you many things, it is the way you learn. ~Louise L Hay
We’ve been taught to be disappointed, be ashamed or lose confidence in ourselves when we make a mistake. Because of this, many of us do everything in our power to avoid making mistake. This includes not taking risks that could lead to (perceived) failure, going against the grain, thinking outside the box and doing things outside of our comfort zones.
But throughout life, we are in a constant state of change and learning. Each mistake we make is a stepping stone along our life’s journey. Mistakes enable us to learn and grow, to master skills, to become accomplished at many things, learn become more aware about what we want and what we don’t. If we use those ‘errors’ as lessons rather than deterrents to our personal progress, we can achieve amazing things.
Thomas Edison made 1,000 attempts to create the light bulb before he finally achieved success. He could have easily given up, felt that he was a failure and lost interest in pursuing this endeavor. But instead, each ‘mistake’ was simply another way that he realized didn’t work. That meant he was one step closer to finding a solution, to the creation of an invention we all rely upon today.
Obviously, making the same mistake over and over means we are missing the lesson life is attempting to teach us. But when we understand and learn from our mistakes and move forward armed with this knowledge, we are one step closer to learning how to play an instrument, cook a gourmet meal, negotiate that contract successfully, hone our communication skills, deepen our relationships, or whatever it is we are attempting to accomplish.
Taken from a Huffington Post article, below are 9 lessons we can learn from our mistakes:
- Mistakes teach us to clarify what we really want and how we want to live. Noticing and admitting our mistakes helps us realize what we really want to be, do, and have. Mistakes make us aware, focusing our attention on issues or problems that don’t work for us. Working on possible solutions, redefining what we want or expect, or reexamining our values or goals can lead to more clarity about the future.
- Mistakes teach us to accept ourselves, that we can be flawed and also be loved. Most of us have a tendency to put ourselves down when we make an error. But this self-defeating habit is one we must break so that we can start appreciating ourselves, mistakes and all. People who care about us will still be by our side when we fall short, as we will be for them.
- Mistakes teach us to accept our fallibility and face our fears. Sometimes even our best efforts just don’t work out. We might do everything possible to achieve a certain result and still fail, again and again. Facing mistakes often takes us straight to the heart of our fears. And when we experience and face those fears, they can disappear. When finally admit we are stuck and ask for help, people, resources, and solutions will appear.
- Mistakes teach us about ourselves and how to tell our truth. It is natural to want to cover up our mistakes or be embarrassed by them. But honesty about our failures and limitations offer opportunities to tell the truth. Admitting the truth about our shortcomings allows us to expand our knowledge of ourselves. This enables us to better understand who we are and increases our capacity to change. When we share with others about our mistakes, it enables us to let go of the embarrassment, shame and guilt we may feel so that we can focus instead on learning and growing.
- Mistakes teach us, through analysis and feedback, about what works, and what doesn’t. Our faux pas are a reality check. When we experience the consequences of mistakes, we get a very clear message about which of our efforts are working—and which are not. Often, we can trace mistakes to repetitious beliefs or behaviors—things we do, say, and think over and over again that are not benefiting us. Through mistakes, we can pinpoint and adjust these habits, which can also positively affect other areas of our lives. One way to gain maximum benefit from mistakes is to ask ourselves questions that invite solutions: “How can I use this experience?”; “What will I do differently next time?”; “How will I be different in the future?”
- Mistakes teach us to take responsibility. Sometimes our instinctive reaction to a mistake is to shift blame elsewhere: “It’s not my fault.” “You never told me about that,” or “I don’t see how this has anything to do with me.” Taking responsibility for a failure may not be fun, but it can be empowering. It allows us to identify what we can do differently next time. Investigating our role reminds us that our choices and our actions have a huge influence on the quality of our lives.
- Mistakes teach us about integrity. Mistakes often happen when we break promises, over-commit, agree to avoid conflict or fail to listen. Even our smallest decisions hold power, so we need to pay attention to the integrity of the choices we make every day. Mistakes can be a signal that our words and our actions are not aligned. If so, we can re-examine our intentions, reconsider our commitments, and adjust our actions.
- Mistakes teach us to engage in our lives — to live fully. We are not our behaviors and we are more than our mistakes. Our past does not have to predict our future. Many of us, when faced with a big mistake, begin to retreat. Instead empower ourselves when we acknowledge our shortcomings as evidence that we are growing and striving to reach our potential. Mistakes help us to remember that without risk there is sometimes no reward.
- Mistakes allow us to inspire others. They may be inspired when we are courageous and make our private struggles public. They might decide to live differently. When a lifelong smoker who’s dying of emphysema talks about the value of being smoke-free, we’re apt to listen. The same kind of contribution also occurs when we speak candidly about less serious mistakes. As parents we can teach our children that it is OK to fail because we are willing to let them see our failures and mistakes. This gives us opportunities to talk through what we could or would have done differently. These are powerful lessons for those around us.