Why I’m thankful for my mistakes and failures

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been quite the year. A year full of challenges and change. But while it’s been very different, there are some similarities that I see. Just like in previous years, I have “wins” and successes, and I find that I still make mistakes and continue to fail in areas of my life. But, this year especially, I’m choosing to be grateful for my mistakes and failures.

What’s so inspiring about mistakes and failures? How can I be grateful for them, let alone welcome them? Can’t I just focus on the good and ignore the bad?

Well, I’m convinced that mistakes and failures are how we learn and grow. Think about it this way – a toddler learning to walk often fails to stand, let alone put one foot in front of the other. Failure.

A young soccer player kicks the ball in the wrong goal. Mistake.

If all these two ever do is win and achieve, how do they learn? How can we be grateful for – and even embrace – mistakes and failures?

Mistakes and failures are steppingstones

Johnny Cash once said, “You build on failure. You use it as a steppingstone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

The Man in Black had a point. Let’s say you started a project this year and then got stuck or sidetracked. Is that really a failure, or just a place where you stepped off for a few? You know what I mean. Sometimes we have days (or weeks or months) where we simply stop whatever we were doing that was good or healthy or even fun. It might be a diet, exercising, blogging, or learning something new.

Please tell me it’s not just me that that happens to!

I/we can use these times of mistakes or failures, or even just taking a break, as steppingstones into something else or something new. Instead of looking back constantly and keeping track of what we didn’t do, we can look forward. We can step off the mistake, lay down the failure, and get on with our lives.

Life happens

Tallulah Bankhead said, “If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”

A number of decades down the line and I do wish I’d learned earlier from my mistakes and failures. They happen, it’s part of life.

I see my adult kids being so much more intentional about their lives and decisions. I want to be that way. I want to take what I’ve learned and mindfully embrace it and put it to use.

And thinking about looking forward, I think we should plan some time for mistakes and failures. Does that sound crazy?

I don’t think so. I think we should be realistic. Recognizing ahead of time that things might not go as planned or might even fall apart is less cynical and more intentional. Understanding that we may have down times, seasons that aren’t as productive or successful, can help us accept that life happens.

Keep mistakes and failures in perspective

“Celebrate your successes. Find some humor in your failures.” Sam Walton was a smart guy and his take on success and failure shows a lot of maturity and wisdom.

If we keep things in perspective, how does that change anything? Well, look back at that toddler learning to walk. We, as parents or grandparents, know that he will eventually learn how to take those steps. We don’t criticize him for not knowing exactly how to do it the first (or twentieth) time.

I remember watching my eldest son play lacrosse for the first time. That season one of his goals was made in the wrong goal and for the wrong team! It happens. He was devastated, to say the least, but I knew it was a stepping stone, a building block for him. He would learn from it, he would build on it and it would make him a stronger more confident player. I view mistakes and challenges as opportunity to better myself and to grow into a stronger, more confident person.

Perspective, the way we look at things, can help us as we accept failures and mistakes and continue to learn from them. Perspective, to me, is looking at our own life and giving ourselves the advice or criticism we might give a friend.

A lifestyle of gratitude

So, in this month of thankfulness, I challenge you to be grateful for your mistakes and failures. Look back and see what kind of steppingstones they were for you. Can you be intentional and accept that sometimes life happens? And, can you keep them in perspective. Lastly – don’t forget to look for, and count, the wins and successes. They may seem small at times, but they’re there. Just look.

As John Cena said, “If you don’t learn from your mistakes, then they become regrets.” Let’s finish out this strange and unusual year without regrets and look ahead to practicing a lifestyle of gratitude.


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