How to make the best of your mistakes

Posted by on Sep 9, 2011 in Career Advice | 14 comments

learn from your mistakes

As a recovered perfectionist, I used to hate making mistakes. I believed mistakes were proof of my shortcomings. I’m grateful I no longer fear making mistakes, I even embrace them!

The truth is we all make mistakes, big and small. Most of the time mistakes can’t actually be avoided because at the time they are made, we lacked the insight and wisdom to have acted differently.

Learning to make the best of mistakes is the result of greater awareness, respect and confidence. Here’s how you can make the best of your mistakes and turn them around from a negative to a positive experience.

Admit it.
You must recognize a mistake was made before you can take positive and productive action.

Own it.
Accept responsibility for your part in the misunderstanding or error. Owning your part allows shows respect for yourself and others.

Embrace it.
Discover what you can learn from your mistake and use it to your advantage. Embrace the opportunity to spark a new idea or awareness.

Listen to feedback.
Listen openly to any feedback you receive about your mistake. Set aside emotional responses and focus on the facts.

Make amends.
If you made an error that affected someone else negatively, apologize. A simple “I’m sorry” honors the experience of those affected.

Correct it.
If possible, take steps to correct the error or offer alternative solutions.

Accept consequences.
Sometimes there will be consequences and it’s best to accept consequences with dignity and grace. Accepting a situation for what it is allows you to be open, honest and teachable.

Don’t sweat it.
A mistake happened and hopefully you learned from it. Mistakes are allowed, no matter what anyone tells you. Believe it for yourself and you’ll be a lot happier in life.

Be kind.
You don’t deserve to be beat up over a mistake by yourself or anyone else. Don’t beat up anyone else over a mistake, either.

Move on.
Don’t dwell on your mistakes, learn what you can and let them go. The best way to re-build confidence and credibility is to move on from mistakes and continue to do your best work.

Mistakes provide the opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t let fear of mistakes stop you from trying, and don’t let embarrassment over your mistakes stop you from living. Embrace your mistakes! Laugh at them, too. You can make the best of your experiences.

I love your comments! Do you have a difficult time moving past mistakes? What helps you make the best of it?

Image courtesy of graceish


  1. Hi Chrysta,

    You truly are an amazing writer! I loved this post. :-)

    I could really relate to the point about being kind. I used to be a serial beater of myself, whenever I made mistakes. :-)

    Learning to allow mistakes to happen, and understanding they are a requirement to make progress has meant I have stopped this type of behaviour. These days when I make a mistake, I laugh at myself and celebrate my human fallibility.

    • Thanks for your truly awesome comment, Hiten!

      I used to fear making mistakes to the point I could hardly relax in my life and it was not a fun way to live!

      I’m grateful I learned making mistakes is okay, and sometimes even good when I learn and grow from the experience. I’m glad you’ve joined me in this practice and I love hearing that you can laugh at yourself and celebrate your human fallibility- what a wonderful viewpoint!

      Thank you for joining in the conversation. I love what you’ve shared!


  2. I think the hardest part is overcoming denial. There is nothing worse than not standing up and taking responsibility in what we might have done wrong. Mistakes happen and yes, they need to be accepted so that you can work on it and make it better. The ego has to be kept aside and the bigger picture needs to be kept in mind.

    Sometime mistakes are unavoidable, I would agree, but that does not mean that we stop working on what’s best for us and keep that from blocking our progress.

    Earlier, I did have trouble moving further from mistakes. But yes, a little bit of self soothing and trying not to judge myself too harshly made it a little better for me.

    A very wonderful post! :)

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Hajra!

      I love what you’ve shared and I have seen admitting mistakes is challenging for us all. The awesome part of taking responsibility is the confidence and pride that comes with learning and doing better next time. I have also enjoyed the respect of those around me when I admit my mistakes- it’s not shameful, it shows strength and humility!

      Have a grateful day!


  3. Although I’ve never been a perfectionist Chrysta, I do hate making mistakes. I think most people are like that.

    It took me a very long time before I finally was big enough to admit when I make a mistake but I’ve always been able to apologize when I do. It might take me a day or two to realize that I was wrong but I’ve always been big enough to admit that fact.

    I do agree with you though, sometimes we need to make mistakes in order to learn and move forward in life. I look back and think where I would be in my personal and professional life had I not made some of the ones that I did. I’ll just chalk it all up to experience learned and move on from there.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Good to know you have also moved passed that as well.


    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      Most people have falsely learned at some point in their life that mistakes are bad and this thinking makes it much harder to any of us to admit we made a mistake. There’s a belief in our society that mistakes = blame, and no one wants to take the blame therefore they don’t want to admit to any mistakes. After all they might get fired or sued or face some other negative consequence.

      However, most mistakes aren’t going to end in litigation, and even if they do well I suppose that’s just part of life, too. The bottom line is we all make mistakes, it’s totally okay, and it’s how we learn and grow as individuals. If we choose to do so, we can turn out mistakes into self confidence and gain the respect of others.

      Have a fantastic day, Adrienne!


  4. Great steps!

    Mistakes always happen. If I had a $1,000 ever time I had a day WITHOUT a mistake, I’d be poor :)!

    The reality is that they always happen. Yes, some are worse than others. But we must learn from them. That is the most critical piece of the puzzle, in my opinion. If we make a mistake and spend all of our time getting frustrated with our self because of it – we get nowhere.

    Thanks for the reminder :).

    • Thanks for the awesome comment, Brock!

      I am so much more successful in all that I do when I recognize that mistakes happen and they are a normal part of growth and success. Sometimes mistakes are even the reason for success! Obviously some mistakes are true setbacks, but as long as I learn from them every mistake is an opportunity to excel.

      Be excellent!


  5. Hi Chrysta,

    Great post and I love the way it has been structured( lot of tips and small descriptions). It makes it so easy to read and apply them.

    I had ( and probably still have) habit of kicking myself for mistakes committed and judging myself harshly for them. With time, however I have learned that it is all part of life and we can never be too careful. If our intentions are right and still mistakes happen , I think it is alright. But learning from them is really important.

    I really like your blog a lot :) Keep up the great work :)

    • Thanks for your great comment, Ashvini!

      I appreciate your feedback and I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I was purposefully brief in this entry, which is sometimes a bit of a challenge for me!

      As far as mistakes are concerned, I still occasionally feel anxiety and guilt when I make mistakes. Fortunately I have learned that response gets me nowhere I want to go and I can turn it around. I love that I can reboot my attitude and experience at any time during the day (even multiple times per day)!

      Making mistakes is a normal part of life and an essential element in discovery. When viewed this way, I don’t fear making mistakes in my life!

      Thanks again for your comment & feedback! I appreciate you!


  6. I have made one or two epic mistakes in my working life and I like to think I have learnt from them and moved on.

    It is hard to move on however when you have a colleague who likes to bring it up every so often and still dwell on it, even if two or three years have passed.

    I prefer to just note it down, rectify what the problem was that caused the mistake so it doesn’t happen again and then move on.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Bec. :)

      It is hard when someone else is keeping score and brings up past mistakes over and over. That’s so difficult and I’m sorry to hear you’ve gone through it, too. In that situation I remember that I love myself and mistakes are okay, and then I try to find some compassion for the other person. In my experience individuals who keep score are usually unhappy people. It hasn’t always been easy for me to let go of someone else’s bad behavior. When I can let go of their bad behavior I’m a lot happier even if they are not. It’s not easy, though.


  7. Hi Chrysta,

    I believe that all do all of the above when I make mistakes. Practically every business and individual resists analyzing their mistakes. That is a shame because this is where the best learning comes from.

    No matter how great everything in life is going – we all make mistakes. For me, the trick is to really analyze them–what preceded them, what could I have done differently, and how can I prevent them in the future.

    • Thanks for your comment, Rachel!

      Mistakes can be a wonderful thing if you analyze and learn from them. I believe most of us learn best through trial and error.

      I was talking to a friend today about mistakes and he mentioned he’d been holding on to some resentment over a co-worker that made a mistake that my friend had to correct. After our conversation he said needed to be reminded we all make mistakes and that it’s just a part of life! He went from feeling resentful and victimized to peaceful and happy. Mistakes affect our lives in so many ways, and how we handle the information determines our life experience.

      Thanks again for commenting! Have a grateful day!



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