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.

While my story and what I learned is very personal and poignant for me, its lessons universal. Here are five takeaways from my experience that may also apply to you.

Take Time Off
All work and no play doesn't just make Jack a dull boy; it also makes us sad, unhappy and less productive individuals. In order for you to reach any goal, you need to take time to recharge those batteries and relax. That's why employers offer vacation days to their workers! Whether it's a night off from the gym to go see a movie with a friend, or a long, hot bath and the end of an even longer day, be sure to take at least 15 minutes each day to do something just for you. If you're the primary caregiver in your house, this may seem impossible, but it's true that you can't take care of anyone unless you take care of yourself, so block off some me time and have some fun! Also remember that even the most dedicated exercisers and athletes need to rest and recover, so build downtime into your workout plans if you hope to take your fitness to the next level.

Don't Force It
You can't force things to happen. No matter how much you want something or how hard you work to make it happen, sometimes you just have to wait it out. Whether it's your perfect job or those last 10 pounds, life is a process. Instead, try to trust that you're on the right path, and keep at it. Slowly but surely, you'll eventually get there. Don't work harder, work smarter—and figure out how you can get to your goal without risking your sanity or well-being. You know what's not productive? Burnout.

Respect Your Limits
I learned this lesson hard during and after my marathon training. Despite a nagging hip ache, I kept running and stuck to my training schedule. Then, for the entire marathon, I didn't just endure 26.2 miles, but 26.2 miles of pain that sidelined me for weeks after the race was over. I learned the hard way that listening to your body is so important. If you're really fatigued, take a day off. If you're sick and have no energy, rest. Pushing through physical pain, emotional pain, and fatigue is never a good idea. Listen closely to what your body is telling you, and treat it like you would your best friend. Be loving, kind and respectful.

Go with the Flow
Life is a journey that doesn't come with a map. You can't always see the destination or every curve, dip or detour along the way, so you might as well enjoy the process (and the ups and downs). So you didn't hit your weight-loss goal this week because the weather prevented you from your daily walks? It's time to get creative. Rent a fitness DVD at the library or devise your own home-based workout. And always be sure to keep that sense of humor and see the opportunity in the problem. When life gives you lemons, don't just smash them. Instead make yummy (sugar-free) lemonade and savor every sip!

Enjoy Now
Why wait for to reach your goal to be happy, wear that dress, or take that vacation? Life is too short. Feel good about yourself today and give yourself the permission and freedom to be completely happy with yourself and your circumstances right now. Try to be present in the moment as much as you can and appreciate life for what you do have. Love where you are and who you are. Don't wait for tomorrow or until you reach that goal to appreciate where you are. You're worthy and good enough right now, today.


Mistakes offer us chances to learn and grow, and in these failures, you'll find wisdom for reaching any goal, be it weight-loss, health, fitness, professional or something else. After all, as James Joyce once wrote, “A man's errors are his portals of discovery.” What can you start learning from your mistakes?

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Member Comments

  • BILLTHOMSON
    Good article. I am close to my weight loss but would love to go to the next level but it is not coming as fast as it did in the beginning. This program is teaching me to learn patience and be consistent.
  • MISSTX32
    I have a friend who is always rushing to get where he is going, He rushes to work, rushes to lunch, rushes BACK to work, rushes home, rushes to church, to school functions, to family affairs, it's crazy! I was without a car for a few days and he offered to bring me to the grocery store. On the way there he estimated how much time each leg of our grocery store excursion should take. He knew how many minutes I should spend on each aisle, when to begin checking out, and the estimated time to be at his car with my cart! Being so time conscious put my stomach in knots! I decided for survival's sake, to ignore his ridiculous attempts to control me and just shop. I trimmed my list considerably, made quick decisions, avoided eye contact with people and stayed focused, maintaining my cart at a slow roll! After only10 minutes in the store, he calls me from the parking lot wanting to hear the items I had left on my list. I named half a dozen things and told him I'd text him the moment I was in the check out line. He started calling for a progress report every 3 or 4 minutes so turned off my phone rather than give in to the urge to be physically violent. Then, thinking it wise, I abandoned my list and went quickly through check out. Texting a simple, "I'm DONE!" I grabbed my 4 or 5 bags and walked outside to look for his car. It didn't take long to realize he left me there with no ride home. He seriously needs to learn the valuable messages in this article! Especially "getting there" is a huge part of Life! It is so important to BE in the present, look for humor, offer a kind word, smile at a baby, compliment someone, enjoy and being grateful for a gorgeous sunset, be available to listen to a neighbor who just lost a spouse and needs to talk. Life is so much more than time management!
  • COURTENAYE
  • Great works are performed not by strength,
    but by perseverance.
    - Samuel Johnson
  • We all need to learn from our mistakes rather than keep repeating them, whether working or retired. I have to admit that it is much easier now that I am no longer giving 10 hours a day to a job.
  • This is how I live my life now that I am retired. It makes for a happy - non stressed life. It is too bad I didn't know all this in my younger years.
  • I have read this article several times & each time find the information contained in it valuable. Important stuff! :-)
  • Someone once said that the power of the written word is that it makes everything seem so obvious and within our grasp...and this article, with all its pointers, is a great example of just how much each one of us has within to be able to do more than we think we can....thank you
  • These are all good points. I learned the hard way, as U did. Yes I 'be learned to listen to my body also. I hope U had a Blessed Day on the Lord's Day! Linda!
  • Good points.

    Will Rogers said "Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make them all yourself!"

    Keep on keeping on!

    Make today the greatest day of your life…
    211 Until tomorrow!


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    “All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”
    ~ Earl Nightingale
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  • This is important. Not easy but something I am learning. Thanks
  • Very inspirational! I really needed this today! Yay!
  • Great information. Thanks for sharing!
  • There's a lot of good info here... Thanx!
  • Great article and lots of useful tips mentioned.

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.