5 Things You Can Learn from Your Mistakes

In today’s hyperconnected, uber-public world—where practically every facet of life is posted online for instant comparison—it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing your behind-the-scenes moments with everyone else’s highlight reels. All of that pressure can turn some people into perfectionists, as they struggle to keep up with friends, family and even strangers in every aspect of life, from career advancement to fitness level to culinary skills.

But the reality is that it’s okay to not be perfect at everything—in fact, in some cases, it’s better to be imperfect. Striving for perfection, which might initially seem like an admirable trait, could actually have the unexpected effect of holding you back from the authentic, happy self you are supposed to be.

Instead of obsessively attempting to avoid making mistakes, perhaps a smarter strategy is to accept (or even embrace) those mistakes and start learning from them. Below are some key lessons you just might take away in your own acceptance of the imperfect life.

Don’t force it.

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 landing your perfect job or losing those last 10 pounds, life is a process. 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 reach your goal without risking your sanity or well-being. You know what's not productive? Burnout.

Respect your limits.

It’s critical to heed what your body needs at any given moment. If you're really fatigued, take a day off. If you're sick and have no energy, rest. Pushing through physical (or emotional) pain 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.

It’s okay to press pause.

All work and no play doesn't just make Jack a dull boy; it also makes him a sad, unhappy and less productive individual. To reach any goal, you must take the time to recharge your batteries and relax. Whether it's taking a night off from the gym to go see a movie with a friend or relaxing in a long, hot bath at the end of a long day, take at least 15 minutes each day to do something just for you. Even the most dedicated exercisers and athletes need rest and recovery, so build downtime into your workout plans if you’re aiming to take your fitness to the next level.

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). Didn't hit your weight-loss goal this week because the weather prevented you from your daily walks? Time to get creative. Find a fitness video online or devise your own home-based workout. And always be sure to keep a sense of humor and find the opportunity hidden within the problem.

Enjoy the here and now.

Why wait to reach your goal to be happy, wear that dress or take that vacation? Life is too short. Give yourself permission and freedom to be completely happy with yourself and your current circumstances. Try to be present in the moment as much as you can, and know that you're worthy and good enough right now.

Mistakes offer us chances to learn and grow, and in these "failures," you'll discover wisdom for reaching any goal, whether it’s weight loss, health, fitness, job growth or another aspiration. After all, as James Joyce once wrote, "A man's errors are his portals of discovery." What can you start learning from your so-called mistakes?