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  • Suzanne Rightley

It Takes Emotional Backbone to Learn from Mistakes

Old adages seem destined to be repeated. We’d like to say we learn from them, but alas...we don’ least not very often.

Hence, the ever popular, “history tends to repeat itself”. Not a pleasant thought, considering some of our history, but that’s another topic.

When it comes to mistakes, most of us have heard this next one...

“You must learn from the mistakes of others."

"You will never live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Sure, it’s comical, but when it comes to the actual mistakes we make...most of us fail to see the humor, at least not in the moment.

However, in keeping with the context of learning from mistakes, let’s be objectively-minded for a few moments. It could possibly prove helpful.

With that in mind...

Question: How do you respond when someone says to you that you’ve made a mistake. Do you ignore the person? Get angry? Acknowledge (admit) your mistake?

Before examining your response to someone’s comments or criticisms (which might be the easier part of this discussion), first examine your own response to the mistake.

First, a little perspective, for the simple reason that ‘all mistakes aren’t created equal’.

Making a mistake may be an insignificant thing, it may be catastrophic, or it could be any number of things in between.

  • Purchasing the wrong product, because you did not read the label, may not be a life altering experience, just down right annoying—waste of time and money.

  • Ignoring an ‘Avalanche’ warning doesn’t bear thinking about...

  • On the other hand, buying the first used car the salesperson showed you, trusting this person to be honest, looking out for your best interest, blah, blah, then...two months later, finding yourself looking for a transmission specialist, reflects the kind of mistake everyone dreads.

Now for some self-examination...

  • Are you hard on yourself or do you make excuses?

  • If there is anger—is it directed inwardly or is it toward that other person or both?

  • To compound matters and make things “big time” worse, did someone try to give you some decent advice, before you made that whopper mistake, but you ignored it?

Are they rubbing it in to your open emotional wound, so it really stings? “I told you so!”

Maybe they say absolutely nothing, but a shrug, a roll of the eye, or a quiet negative shake of the head stills conveys it all—you idiot!

It’s no news flash—we’ve all experienced it at least once in our lives. Nonetheless, it never gets easier.

However, your reaction to your mistakes and the criticism of others is where the personal growth or downfall lies.

Having the ability to face mistakes, head on, is a must kind of thing to have. This is the kind of backbone to build. It is the structure that will keep you moving forward and learning from the mistakes.

If you maintain your stance that it was not your fault, or if you nurture self-defeating attitudes and believe the worst about yourself, you are not striving to reach your potential.

The ability to grow is within you.

Mistakes: they come, they go, but so long as you accept and learn, change what is necessary so you do not repeat mistakes, then what is possible is always reassuringly available.

So, when advice comes, or criticism is made – don’t reject, don’t throw it back at the person(s) who is doing you a kindness. Look at and evaluate your thoughts – be sincere, face-up to your own thoughts, admit what you must, and be thankful for the words of others and then appreciate your ability to grow and move on.


  • Reminders—some embarrassing, some we live with because of poor choices back then

  • Opportunities—do your homework/research, avoid quick spur-of-the-moment decision

  • Follow-up—says more about who you are than your actual mistake

It’s the right thing to do...


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