Love & Relationships

How to Learn from Your Mistakes

11.28.11 Oops

Mistakes are a part of life. And although you can’t get through life without making missteps, you can grow from them.  Life is an invisible school. Mistakes are our lessons and circumstances are those intimidating tests.  If you don’t past the test, sometimes you’ll have to take it again. But ultimately mistakes should and need to evolve into a lesson plan – a road map if you will – for personal growth and wisdom.

So, how can we learn from our mistakes?  The first key step: allow yourself an initial period to be upset. Collect yourself.  Once you have a clear mind, determine – whether on your own, with a help of a wise friend or a therapist – what caused the mistake, specifically underlying events, personal issues, circumstances, or possibly error in judgment. Sometimes unresolved trauma can cause mistakes.  Without addressing the initial cause, trauma can propel into actions which cause major mistakes.

In order to learn from mistakes, we must understand that some missteps are irreversible.  Accept the situation then explore what you can do to mitigate the consequences.  If you’ve been eating unhealthy, nonnutritive food for years and now are seeing the physical results, you can change today.  You can make a decision to begin a healthy diet and workout regimen that may not undue all of the results but may stop the continuation.

Then there are those mistakes that hurt others.  Our mistakes most always have reverberating effects.  Heartfelt apologies and sincere attempts to make situations right can heal relationships. Be forgiving when others hurt you.  It is important to understand that everyone makes mistakes and that this is how we learn, acquire wisdom and gain experience.  Make sure not to focus on the mistakes of others. Focusing on the imperfections of others can initiate feelings of dissatisfaction and anger in your relationships.  Rather choose to see the positive attributes in others.  Depending on the type of a mistake, there may be a healthy decision not to associate with a person any longer.

What if you feel you cannot get past your own mistakes?  You may need to seek professional therapy – a great opportunity to work out traumas and issues that may be running your life without your awareness.

Learning to accept mistakes as a natural part of your journey will enable you to stop focusing time spent on your missteps or foibles of others. Learn and grow, but refuse to dwell.  With the proper steps, mistakes can actually be integral parts to your formula of success.


Written by: Irina Firstein, LCSW

Irina Firstein is a relationship therapist in New York City. She has practiced in Midtown Manhattan for more than 20 years. She works with individuals and couples.

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