Motivation Articles

5 Things You Can Learn from Your Mistakes

Find Life Lessons When You're Less Than Perfect

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I've always known that I'm a bit of a perfectionist. In high school, a B was never enough. In college, being in the middle of the bell-shaped curve wouldn't do. While the do-everything-perfectly mentality has pushed me in my adult life to advance my career and start my own business, my Type-A personality hasn't always been a blessing. In fact, it's taught me much over the years, namely that not being perfect at everything is OK—even better at times.

Earlier this year, I had one of the most difficult—and memorable—months of my life. I lost a grandparent, ran my first marathon, and found myself putting in 60+ hours a week during a challenging time at work. Within 30 days, despite the exhilaration at my marathon achievement, I was spent. Emotionally and physically drained, I kept working. Kept pushing. Kept running. I made the mistake of thinking that if I went harder and harder in all areas of my life, eventually I would push through to the other side, fixing my work-life balance issues, aching hips, and sagging energy levels. But that wasn't the case. The harder I pushed, the more my life pushed back, eventually crippling me for a full week of "why me?" crying and anger that I couldn't have what I wanted. I was an adult, acting like a child and throwing a total tantrum, complete with outburst, and arms and legs flailing in disgust at my own self.

After a week of this, I had what you might call an epiphany, or as Oprah might say, an "ah-ha moment." I realized that my dedication and drive for perfection, which I thought had been a good trait, was holding me back. It was stopping me from being happy, and that it was keeping me from accepting some realities: that my hip was injured and I would have to take time off from running, that my grandfather really was gone, and that working more hours wasn't (ironically enough) getting the job done. In a flash of a moment, I realized that I was making a huge mistake: I was fighting against what was. And I was paying the price.

I immediately made a pact with myself to not fall into this trap again, but to learn from my mistakes. I learned the power of taking time off, listening and respecting my body, going with the flow, being easy on myself and finding happiness in the present. I, in a nutshell, learned to embrace imperfection and to find a valuable lesson in my mistake.
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • Thank you. For writing this article and in a very personal way...just thank you. - 8/4/2014 4:28:00 PM
  • What a great article! So very well written! Nothing new in it really, but a lot that I needed to remind myself of! Thank you for sharing from your own journey and the lessons learned along the way! - 8/4/2014 9:44:26 AM
  • I have the opposite problem. I start to get sedentary and feel not motivated. But this article is still good to read. I have always beat myself up for not being perfect. I just need to set reasonable goals and be content what I have. :) - 5/28/2014 2:31:55 PM
  • WOW - I really needed to read this today.

    Great, great article.

    This is just one reason why I love Sparkpeople.

    Thank you so much!!! - 11/19/2013 11:04:51 AM
  • Great article! Thanks for sharing. - 11/15/2013 11:02:26 AM
  • I teach a self-esteem group at my job and I think this article is really generalizable to all aspects of human behavior. I am sharing it in group today :) - 10/8/2013 11:22:24 AM
  • I definitely learned "Respect Your Limits" the hard way. I was so determined to become a runner that I just dove in, without any preparation or information, and despite my body screaming at me that I was doing something wrong, I continued to run improperly, eventually giving myself terribly painful shinsplints. And then I made those shinsplints worse by trying to push through the pain, thinking it made me a badass. Uh, more like dumbass. I've always been stupidly stubborn, and that's a prime example. Now I take great pains to listen to my body, taking time off when needed even if it means it will take me longer to reach my goals. Better to reach them eventually than to injure myself trying to take the shortcut. - 7/15/2013 8:15:19 PM
  • Thank you for this great article! - 7/15/2013 4:56:15 PM
  • Thank you. Love this article. - 7/15/2013 12:50:14 PM
  • Thanks for sharing your experience so candidly. Last summer I experienced some of what you described, only it was related to the community garden I manage. The point you made that you have to rest and not always work through it, and that you can't force things really resonated with me. This growing season, I am applying what I learned from last year and am so much happier. And guess what - everything is growing better too! Feel like God gave me a groundhog day to try again and learn from my mistakes. Blessings and thanks, Melody - 7/15/2013 8:08:07 AM
  • I have learned, to live in the now, enjoy life and work on my life list as when you're about ot kick the"bucket" unlike the movie, it is already too late. I'm not one to say, "if I knew then, what I know now because, when I know and where I am now, is really, where I need to be, thanx be to God. I have learned, to accept the things I cannot change (other people) as if it is to be, it starts with me. It's all in attitude.........
    mine! Keep up the good work as you can take someone to the water, however you cannot make them drink! Thank you for your testimony! - 2/26/2013 1:51:07 AM
  • I am a bit type A, though not to the extent of this author. I am injured AGAIN. Between this article and Coach Nicole, I think I have decided to check out some strength training videos. I also think I'm going to see if just 10 minutes of walking a day aggravates the injury. 50 minutes sure does! - 2/9/2013 9:16:37 AM
  • WOW! I love your paragraph on "enjoy now". I keep waiting until I fit into that dress, or am able to jog a 5-k....Why wait!?!?

    I am making healthy steps every day and should enjoy the journey, not look anxiously toward when I am "perfect"

    Thank you! - 2/8/2013 9:11:33 AM
  • Jenn, Most of us can relate to your Ah Ha and fall into some or all of the traps. Weight loss is a huge thing... and being a perfectionist is a trap. We all must find our own rythmn of life... and its different for different people. And it changes as our own health changes. Listening to your body ... Realizing you are "good enough"... stop beating yourself up for being you...
    I am coming back from the dead... literally and my pace three years ago was almost "Stop". Now it is proceed slowly and listen to your body. I AM ... and this makes me feel very alive and happy as I see the progress. I want to finish the race... but I don't have to be the first. - 2/5/2013 7:54:16 PM
  • Great article. I'm so glad I read it. I've been in the dumps for awhile. My husband has been unemployed going on 4 months, the holiday season was not so great and my health has been up and down. I agree that we need to take time to enjoy ourselves even if it's just for a few hours. I plan to be more positive starting today.

    - 2/5/2013 7:41:36 AM

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