I’m going to take a wild guess to assume that most of us don’t like to make mistakes. It can be such a source of frustration when you make mistakes, especially if those mistakes lead to other problems. However, mistakes are proof that you are trying, so they’re not necessarily a bad thing.
While you shouldn’t go out of your way to mess up, there are ways in which making mistakes can actually benefit you. You can learn from them, you can gain valuable experience to share with others, and you can recognize your own humanity.
It’s surprising, but mistakes might not be the enemy here. Let’s talk about how you can leverage your mistakes for good!
Why are mistakes learning lessons?
If you’ve ever watched a small child trying to learn a new skill, you might have seen the value of making mistakes.
They don't usually start walking right off the bat; they need to crawl and wobble and fall. Little kids need to try things—and make mistakes—because it’s often the only way to learn.
It’s the same for us no matter our age. We all need to embrace mistakes to some extent.
It's important to take advantage of the chance to learn from your mistakes and make smarter decisions. Here are the benefits.
It helps you see room for improvement
First of all, when you make mistakes, you learn to find room for improvement. Whether you’re learning how to use budget templates or bake a pie, there’s often value in trying, making mistakes, and trying again.
Mistakes are proof that you’re trying, and they can often show you exactly what you need to do differently next time. When you make a mistake, it shines a light on what you could do better.
Perhaps you’ve gone into some credit card debt that you’re not sure how to pay off. You can start a new life of improved finances today, taking steps to quit using credit and pay down your debts. There’s always room for improvement.
They keep you humble and mistakes are proof that you are trying
There’s nothing like making a mistake to make a person more humble. But if you never make a mistake, that means you’re not really trying anything! You’re not taking any risks or attempting to learn new things.
Life never stops teaching, so why would you expect to stop making mistakes? They’re a great tool for reminding you that you don’t know it all.
As physicist Stephen Hawking once said, “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect... Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.”
Making mistakes is really key to living an examined life. That means you never stop learning and stretching yourself beyond what’s comfortable. One great thing about mistakes is the humility they grant.
Humility comes with a lot of potential benefits: it can make you a stronger leader, more tolerant, and more helpful to others.
Our flaws help build compassion for others
Think about this: are you more compassionate towards someone if you’ve made the same mistakes they have? I bet you are.
I know I am much quicker to offer grace to someone who’s messed up when I’ve made the same mistake myself.
For example, maybe you’ve made some financial mistakes such as ignoring your small goals. Once you’ve recognized a mistake like that and changed, you can then help others do the same.
And I’ll bet you’ll be more compassionate towards your friends or family members when they make mistakes.
Don't expect perfection from yourself or others
It’s not that you want to intentionally make mistakes, but you also shouldn’t expect perfection. Nobody’s perfect, right?
So why not practice compassion for yourself as well as for the people in your life? Use positive affirmations like “My mistakes do not define me” to help move forward.
This doesn’t mean letting constant, repeated mistakes go unaddressed. You might have a friend that is constantly unsupportive of your goals, no matter what you say. This might be someone you need to distance yourself from.
But don’t write off someone for making one mistake—remember you’ve messed up before, too!
How to acknowledge your mistakes without shame
Now, before you can begin to welcome mistakes into your life as a source of good things, you need to acknowledge them. But how can you acknowledge you’ve messed up without being filled with shame?
Breaking the cycle of shame is essential to moving forward in healthy ways. Whether you feel shame around your financial decisions, your relationship choices, your health, or your education, it can be debilitating.
If shame is causing you to keep making the same mistakes, it’s time to flip that script.
Remind yourself that you’re human
The first step to being unashamed of your mistakes is a reminder that you are human. After all, mistakes are proof that you are trying, and making mistakes is part of being human.
My favorite online yoga teacher of Yoga With Adriene has a great saying when guiding viewers through a balancing pose.
She’ll often say, “If you fall, it’s okay. Way to be human.” It’s a great reminder that everyone falls, and everyone makes mistakes both big and small.
Don't be afraid of your flaws
The fear of making mistakes comes from a drive to be perfect. But guess what? You can’t be perfect, and neither can I.
As Psychology Today notes, “Accepting that humans are fallible and that we all make mistakes opens the door to compassion, peace, gratitude, and happiness.”
Find something good about your effort
If you’re having a hard time owning up to your mistakes, it may help to first focus on the positives. Acknowledge that you failed, but try to look for something good about the effort you made.
It’s challenging to stay positive in a negative world. It’s easier than ever to hear people’s negative opinions on social media. But you can learn to identify something that went well.
Maybe you’ve worked on a project at work for weeks that wasn’t received well by your boss. It’s not automatically the end of the world. Can you find the aspects of the project where you excelled?
Lean into those strengths, and that can help build you up to be able to accept constructive criticism.
Many teachers have long known the secret of offering positive feedback along with negative feedback. It helps kids to respond better when it’s not all about what was wrong.
Cultivate a growth mindset
Since mistakes are proof that you are trying, it’s likely that proponents of the growth mindset (versus a fixed mindset) would agree. A fantastic way to view mistakes without shame is by using a growth mindset.
A growth mindset means you believe that your skills are not fixed and that you have the ability to grow and learn. The power of mindset can’t be overstated: the way you think many times determines the way you live.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, you usually have two choices. Either you give up and never try again, or you see a way to improve and you keep trying.
Building a growth mindset is so valuable in helping you to leverage your mistakes for success.
Imagine how much you’d miss out on if you decided you could never get better at anything.
It takes time to become good at anything
Think back to your first steps as a toddler. What about the first meal you cooked, your first relationship, or the first time you drove a car? Did you get it right immediately?
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t perfect at any of those things right away. I had to learn from my mistakes, and I bet you did too. So don’t be afraid of mistakes, which can help you to grow.
Remember that mistakes don’t equal failure
While mistakes are proof that you are trying, they don’t mean you’ve officially failed. Often, a lot of attempts are required before you reach any level of success.
It can be tough to get out of the habit of equating mistakes with failure. After all, just about everyone has had at least one teacher or parent over the years who made mistakes feel like a disaster. You might have internalized the belief that even the tiniest mistake meant you’d failed.
The word “failure” holds a ton of negative connotations for all of us. But don’t let every little mistake cause you to believe you’re a failure.
And another thing? Failure is the first step to success, so you actually don’t have to fear it! Failure and mistakes are all part of the learning process.
Try these tips for learning from your mistakes
You don’t have to enjoy your mistakes, but you can definitely flip them into positive things. Mistakes are proof that you are learning, so try these five tips for learning from them and leveraging them for good!
1. Monitor your progress
One of the initial steps you should take when trying to make the most of your mistakes is to monitor your progress. Whether you already have a goal or realize you need to make one after a mistake, keeping track of progress is key.
Maybe you’ve made some mistakes with spending and want to really work on savings. You can track your savings to keep continual tabs on how your account balance is growing. Or use a budgeting app to ensure you stick to your monthly spending and saving.
Goals and habits help you improve
Studies have shown that the more often you monitor your progress, the more of a chance you have at succeeding in accomplishing goals. So instead of ignoring a mistake, use it to set a goal for yourself and then keep track of how you’re doing.
Your mistakes are proof that you are trying, but you don’t need to keep making the same mistakes over and over!
Monitoring your progress with a habit-tracking app is a great way to go. Or you can determine some other data point that’s measurable to help you observe your progress and improvement.
2. Use your support system
Secondly, for just about any goal, going it alone isn’t ideal. You need a support system to help you stay motivated and stick to your goals.
Find people to keep you accountable
While you might not feel you need a lot of outer accountability, most of us succeed more with someone watching over us. Having an accountability partner is a good way to make the journey easier, whatever you’re trying to do.
You could have one primary person you depend on to tell you the hard truths, or several friends you check in with.
Whether you need someone to remind you of your goal to reduce gluten intake or spend more time with your children, leaning on others can help you.
A support system is anyone that can remind you of your goals, help you not to be too hard on yourself, and cheer for your successes. Figure out how a friend or family member could be a great accountability partner.
3. Reframe your mistakes as growth opportunities
If you’ve struggled with beating yourself up for mistakes, you have some work to do. It can take time to undo years of negative thoughts taking up space in your mind.
Knowing that mistakes are proof that you are trying, start training your mind to believe they are growth opportunities. They are truly a chance for you to grow out of your comfort zone. Growth isn’t always fun, but it’s certainly beneficial.
Making your mistakes work for you requires that you reframe your thoughts. Instead of thinking, “I’m a failure,” think, “I learned one way that doesn’t work.”
Think again and reexamine situations
Nearly any mistake you make can be viewed from a positive angle.
Really take a moment to examine the situation. Whatever the mistake you’ve made, you can likely find a way to grow and learn from it. You might not see it right away, so don’t panic if you don’t instantly “look on the bright side.”
Being a mature adult means looking for how your mistakes can expand your mind. Remember that you aren’t perfect, and no one is. There’s always room for growth.
4. Identify the lesson you’ve learned
While mistakes are proof that you are trying, you likely don’t want to stop there. If you did nothing but try without any improvement, that would be tough to handle.
When you’ve figured out your mistake, it’s important to then identify the lesson you can learn from it.
Examples of lessons
If it’s a series of financial mistakes, the lesson may be that you need to start prioritizing your expenses in order to save more. Perhaps you realized you’re underearning, and the lesson is that you should ask for what you’re worth.
Whether you’ve made mistakes in your relationships, your career, your mental health, or any number of things, find the lesson. Don’t let the mistake have the last word.
5. Use mistakes as stepping stones to better things
A final tip for accepting that mistakes are proof that you are trying: use those mistakes. They can be important steps along your path to better things.
Read any memoir or biography of an entrepreneur or other successful person, and guess what you’ll find? They all made mistakes earlier in life that helped them find their way.
Successful people who failed first
Dave Ramsey, for example, writes about how an early bankruptcy taught him to be smarter with money. Whether you like all of his teachings, many of them ring true: pay off debt and live on less than you make.
J.K. Rowling was famously rejected by around a dozen publishers before the first Harry Potter book was accepted.
At the very least, what Rowling learned from that experience was the value of perseverance. She didn’t give up, and the series became wildly popular.
No matter what your journey is, you can’t avoid making mistakes. So decide now that when you do make mistakes or face setbacks, you won’t give up. Use them to propel you on toward the next step.
Embrace your mistakes and learn from them
You don’t need to fear making mistakes, because that’s often the best (or only) way to learn and grow. Mistakes aren’t something to be ashamed of. In fact, mistakes are proof that you are trying, and that’s worthwhile.
As Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx has said, “It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable.”