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How to Grow from Mistakes and Stop Beating Yourself Up

“When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” ~Unknown

The spiral staircase has always intrigued the yogi-designer in me. The visual draw, similarity to DNA, and cosmic patterns, as well as its mathematical genius could be enough, but the structure can also mean more.

Picture yourself tripping up in work, life, or love. You’ve made a mistake, said the wrong thing, or didn’t come through with your end of the bargain.

You think: How did I let that happen?  What a (fill in the blank) I am. I can’t believe I did that, AGAIN. If only I could rewind.

These aren’t the greatest feelings—it’s true. However, we live our lives in irony. Though we dislike how we feel having just tripped-up, we continue to beat ourselves up way after the fact.

We cause our own suffering. Furthermore, we seem to forget that when we make mistakes, we grow. An atmosphere of growth is integral to happiness. So create happiness by seeing mistakes as true growth opportunities.

Although yoga, psychology, and conventional wisdom scream at us to live in the moment, I say we are not just the present moment.

We are very much our past in the most rich and helpful way. We can use past mistakes to yield a shiny new perspective and, in turn, create a new outcome.

If we allow them, our mistakes can fuel our awareness. In helping us decide how to act and react in a fresh and fruitful way, they can bring us closer to happiness and further away from (causing our own) suffering.

Picture a most beautiful spiral staircase in Rome, Paris, London, NYC, or Barcelona. Visualize its ample room.

Now visualize yourself on this staircase, midway up. You’re accomplished. You’ve come all this way. Look up at where you’re going and down at where you’ve come from. Peek around and up at the spirals of stair above; over and down at the spirals below.

Now comes the part that we don’t like that’s part of being human.

You’ve suddenly tripped up and missed a step, and you’ve probably done something similar before. Look down at your feet. Yes, you are here, right now, and it’s close to before—but, not exactly.

You are wiser today than yesterday.Though you might feel bad because you’re encountering the same or similar problem, this time it’s with a different view and varied perspective.

Accept where you are. You will immediately suffer less. Remember this is merely one moment in time. It only defines you and your worth if you choose to make it adefining moment.

Look down the middle of the staircase at what you’ve ascended. Keep hold on this view of yourself and see where you are now in comparison.

Yes, this human moment has come to find you again, but you’re now higher up and can respond from a different place, literally, figuratively, emotionally, and intellectually.

Ask yourself: How can I respond from this higher place instead of causing myself pain?

Welcome to your new spiral staircase-inspired mantra: I have a view. I hold wisdom. I use both.

Think it. Say it. Act on it. Let it create your new character.

I’ve practiced this mantra and used the visual of a staircase for a long time; however, it’s newest for one particular aspect of life these last two years.

In sports and yoga I have always asked a lot of myself. I’ve competed with myself and failed to listen to my body.

I journeyed close to one year+ with a sports hernia, then chronic SI / low back issues, and a tear of my adductor during a restorative yoga pose (of all times). I could go on about my wrists, my left shoulder, my neck, and the running injuries, but I think you get the picture.

I did an A+ job at beating myself up, which only added to the extreme sadness of not being active each time I made myself suffer.

But that was then and this is now. I now have wisdom that has changed the way I treat my body. I have proven that I can be gentle (to myself) but still strong.

Also, I have learned an insane amount about the human body. Though I still like to push when I know it is “healthy” to do so, I assess from that higher place. I assess where I’ve been, where I am, where I really want to go, and how I want to feel.

On that next spiral up I remind myself there’s no final or “perfect” destination off the staircase of life. It is merely a journey with many similar situations.  However, with growing wisdom and a richer perspective, we are better able to deal, enjoy ourselves, and suffer less.

It’s freeing to know that we are acting from a more intelligent place today versus yesterday, don’t you think?

As I sit here typing while icing tendonitis in both arms, I challenge you to give yourself a break next time. Woe is not you. Wisdom is.

Here are 5 ways to change your perspective:

1. Find strength in the visual of a staircase.

Make it your new BFF. Yes, you’re confronting something similar again, but this time it’s higher up the staircase. Trust and respond from this place. Ask yourself: How can I react differently this time given the learning from last time?

2. Remember that everything transforms.

Connect with the fact that with up comes down, with light comes darkness. With down comes up, with darkness comes light.

When you find yourself smack in the middle of a day filled with disequilibrium, remember that yourequilibrium must be right around the corner.Trust in the flow of your life and that of the universe.

3. Adopt a growth mindset.

Accept the idea of a failure en route to your goals. In essence, plan for some roadblocks, nod when they come (you knew they were coming), and move on as quickly as possible.

If you Google more on a growth mindset, you’ll see the myriad of benefits it has for your continued success in all aspects of life. Exhibit the mindset in your thoughts, words, and actions, and teach it your kids.

4. Practice saying “I’m sorry,” especially to those you wouldn’t normally say it to.

Saying these words filled with meaning forces you to move from your comfort zone and look at things from a different side. Healthy, yes, but more importantly, it also brings you closer to the people who make life worth living.

5. Do a headstand or down dog.

Here’s another instant way to change your perspective.It’s difficult to feel and see things the same way if you’re upside down.

Namaste. And remember, when in doubt, take the spiral staircase. It really is the most pleasant route. See you there. I’ll be the one repeating the same mantra.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett

Photo by sjdunphy

Avatar of Michelle Ghilotti Mandel

About Michelle Ghilotti Mandel

Michelle Ghilotti helps women and Moms make happiness their business, locally and abroad. She is a branding expert, motivational speaker, writer, consultant and coach. Her latest book How to be a Walking Momtra is in the works. Her website is www.michelleghilotti.com.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://www.thinkchooselive.org Chris Barba

    What a great visual, the spiral stair case. I love it! It’s the perfect visual for progress, and a great reminder that a slip up isn’t as disastrous as we might believe it to be.

    In his bestseller How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer puts it this way, “When the mind is denied the emotional sting of loosing, it never figures out how to win.”

    From that perspective a slip up is just that, another step UP the staircase.

    Cheers!

  • http://winewillfixit.blogspot.com Winewillfixit

    Great post! Sometimes I slip up on my spiritual practice and thoroughly beat myself up for not progressing as far as I would like to. I take it as evidence to show myself that I haven’t really grown. But you’re right – it’s just a small slide down the stair case and I’m not back at square one.

  • Ingridangelmail

    Thank you for such an amazing post it came to me in the most important time and has helped me with new insight. Peace

  • http://profiles.google.com/ormoto OR Moto

    Excellent Article Michelle !

    Life is the Journey, not the Destination =)

  • Vshaw1123

    Shared this with my perfectionist 8 yr old son. He loves this analogy. Very helpful. Thank you!! Follows up his assignment to write 100 times “it’s ok to mess up!!” :)

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Michelle,

    Powerful tips here.

    Adopting a growth mindset is a key to moving forward. We grow or die, create or disintegrate. The individual chooses the direction.

    Every moment is an opportunity. If you learned from the opportunity it was a success, independent of whether it turned out to your liking. The universe always has a lesson ready-made. Tune into the wisdom of each moment and you will stop beating yourself up and start growing quickly.

    Thanks for sharing!

    RB

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie Amundson

    Michelle.

    I so like your visualization of the beautiful spiraling stairwell. It reminds me of one in Lisbon that was a must to photograph.

    Aah, the bumps in the path of life . . . sometimes we can be so demanding and critical of ourselves. I like reading your suggestions, which do apply caring authenticity and kindness to our human wholeness. I just wanted to add one item — saying sorry to ourselves. Most of us need to exercise this self-compassion a whole lot more.

    Thanks so much.

  • http://howtobeawalkingmomtra.wordpress.com/ Michelle

    Art and design really do teach us about life. As a visual person I live off of both. Is it not so much easier to hang your hat on? To be motivated by, even.

    …and all your thoughts and wisdom is the reason I write. Thank you, To connect with self and with others. Thanks for YOUR wisdom.

    We are all in it together! With that said, stay connected,

    Blog inspired by yoga, design and world citizenship is here: http://howtobeawalkingmomtra.wordpress.com/

    Or be-friend/follow:

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Walking-Momtra/177470995605942

    https://twitter.com/#!/walkingmomtra

    Namaste, climbers! ;)

    Michelle

  • Michelle

    This makes me so incredibly happy.

    Kudos to you for teaching your son to be a-ok with what the real world calls “failure”….

    What a blessed boy!

  • Michelle

    So blessed to be in my mid 30s. I finally see this as truth…! Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Michelle

    Made my heart smile. It’s like opening up a book to a random page just how certain truths find us at times. I send you light. Love.

  • Michelle

    A small side down the stair case…love THAT visual. Exactly what it is and what life is…thank you!

  • Michelle

    Woop woop ~ the growth mindset.

    And thank you for your beautiful words…’we grow or die, create or disintegrate.’ I will take that straight to paper never to forget.

  • Michelle

    I’m looking up that book, Chris. Thank you.

    May the spiral staircase live on ;)

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  • JessRoten

    I started running in February 2011, after years of inactivity. I expected setbacks and strived to stay strong and uninjured, religiously stretching and moving at a snails pace.
    I did great, until 3 accidents (not exercise related) have kept me out of the gym for the past 4 weeks.
    The past week I’ve been the hardest on myself, as Sunday, May 1st approached and past me by. That day originally would have been my first 5K run.
    Thank you for this post. It’s exactly what I need. I had been nurturing my body to make sure there were no injuries, but I had been failing my mind.
    Jessica

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie Amundson

    Hey Jess.

    I am so aware of the heartache by not running. Please check out my post on running Bloomsday, 12-K run, this past week after an experience with cancer. http://wiseatwork.net/2011/05/03/one-step-at-a-time-blooming-through-disappointment/

    Best wishes on staying healthy and moving forward.
    Susie

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  • Guest

    awesome!

  • http://www.paramountiron.com/spiral-stairs/spiral-staircase-kits-image-gallery.html Bertha Brickner

    Wow, I never looked at spiral staircase as something that would spiritually motivate me to be better, everyday. It’s a really a good perspective, since it really helps you cope with mistakes.

  • Michelle

    Jess and Susie!

    My heart is warm hearing my article found you both. 

    I wrote it in “the middle of my recovery” though, fast-forwarding another 3-4 weeks, I am still not well. I empathize whole-heartedly and truly believe in visuals being uber-helpful reminders. I hang my little yogi hat on the spiral staircase of my life.

    ‘Nurturing your body but failing your mind’…beautiful, Jess. We do need to remember that emotions have so much to do with our physical bodies breaking down. The key to happiness IS really in letting go…even though that might mean a month or two off running (I haven’t been running now for almost two after six years on). 

    Massage the body massage the mind…you will get better. Just look left or right to see all that is still so right and moving about your life.

    Thanks for the comments.

    Michelle, Spiral Staircase User/Writer ;)

  • Justusdaddario

    Nice, thanks for the good thoughts. My gramma liked to say “only doers make mistakes”. I also enjoyed finding out that the aramaic word that was translated as sin was an archery term that meant, ” to miss the mark”, which happens more to people that practice.

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  • xiaoxiu11

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  • Rob

    Thanks for this post.  I am going to lookup ‘growth mindset’ now.  The visual of a staircase really helps and so again, I thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom.

  • Michelle

     You are most welcome. Report back what you took away from your reading on growth mindset, Rob! Happy day/eve to you!

  • Guest

    I definitely agree. Adopting a growth mindset is a key to moving forward.

  • http://www.buraq-technologies.com/ ambreen11

    Thanks for the nice article. I am still new to blogging. Those tips
    really helped me. I would like to ask you something – Most of my
    blogging friends said that its important that we put our pictures and
    real identity in our blogging profile. Is it necessary for us to do so?

  • christaavampato

    Thank you so much. I made a terrible mistake today and have been beating myself over it. Your post really helped.

  • Michelle

    You are so very welcome, Christa!

    Come join me over at http://www.facebook.com/walkingmomtrabeagoodmother or http://www.michelleghilotti.com for similar writings…sending you much love.

  • marty333

    I help (sometimes) people who are getting out of jail or prison, and over the years have learned that the ones who actually change their life are the ones who have gone through a trauma so bad that it shook their foundations/3rd eye, or who have grasped-onto their spirit and the spirit realm…usually the Holy Spirit and the peace and forgiveness they seek, with others around them encouraging them. Those who find themselves back in jail or prison have not yet had the latter experiences…nothing showed them their ‘depth mirror’.
    Many people talk about self-forgiveness for the typical worldly “mistakes” they make, but the subject is not so common when it comes to rapists and sex offenders, who have done a 180 in their thinking and learning….changed their way of thinking and attitudes and gone through intense therapy. The public in general acknowledges these people as unforgiven and outcasts, which in-turn helps keep these reformed in a mud pit. I know of many men who have changed their life, did their time in jail and/or prison and have made a new life for themselves but again the general public still judges them by their past instead of their present.
    Most or all of these men are way above those who have not gone through these experiences in the way of depth, character, compassion and being free in spirit and mind.
    I wish there was more teachings for the general public on these matters, instead of talking/blogging about forgiveness for little things like cheating, stealing, lying etc…I’d love to see some real forgiveness…for real heart-hurt shamed reformed remorseful people who deserve a chance to be smiled at again.

  • kenneth

    Was very interesting and has made me to put things into perspective, thank you very much for such a great post. I saw the first line “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson” and I actually think the author of that is Dalai-Laama.

  • yesica

    It’s hard to find anyone who does not know closely suffering, either
    because they fall on it at certain times or stages of life or because they live
    deep in the pain of a permanent basis. And the amazing thing is that one is
    unknowingly who begets and nourishes within himself suffering.
    In pain, in this experience to the surface of our own inability, we see
    clearly that in our lives something is wrong, and we suspect that there was
    another way to live completely different, in which the psychological pain does
    not exist. And when we reach this point we realize that we lack certain
    knowledge that life to glimpse new and different reality.
    Here, I suggest this video to help you superstructures for you and
    solve your problems today…….
    http://tinyurl.com/qxglhyy

  • http://www.habibasyrafy.com/ Habib Asyrafy

    Helpful.. i think i have a water wisdom now? Am I right? Is this a lesson we can take from the water or the air?