Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve… three words common in the human vocabulary – because mistakes are a part of living and no one is above them, no matter how high your IQ or sharp your intuition. I did some ridiculous things back when black lipstick and boy bands were trending. Still do. Let’s just say kick-me-moments happen often for me, but I make a point of looking back for the purpose of self-examination. Sometimes the difference between failure and success is my ability to see just where I stumbled, find the lesson in the fall, and move on to a more positive place. And this brings me to the title of my post: Looking back is beneficial when…
- It Helps us Cultivate Gratitude
Memories — the good are stuck in my mind like shimmering pennies on a fountain floor. They are mini vacations for afternoons gone awry or evenings alone. Just this morning I held my coffee on my tongue for a few seconds before swallowing, feeling the warm brown liquid settle into the creases of my mouth. The aroma reminded me of my grandma, the pale pink mug that she sipped from and the stain of her lipstick scalloped on its rim. Every day, I make a point to let my senses guide me to the past where the chubby hand of my child reaches for me or the laughter of a friend cuts through the cold Wisconsin air. Sweet memories of summers rolling in soft grass and making dandelion bouquets for plastic cups on the counter help me cope with everyday stresses and cultivate gratitude when I feel like spewing four-letter words.
- It Helps us Find Perspective
When it comes to bad memories, mistakes, and moments where I’m caught with my proverbial pants down and swimming in shame, I should remember those too. I’m not talking about reliving moments that make me miserable, but examining my failings to give me perspective. I can ask myself: how did I get into that horrible situation, what could I have done differently, and am I equipped now to do things differently? I can be the teacher at the blackboard of my blunders. I can see where life was gentle with me when things could have been tragic. I can see who propped me up when I stumbled, and who withheld support. I can recall the way I felt, and how those feelings exposed the deepest layers of my heart and self that were formerly hidden.
- We Realize That Our Mistakes Make Successes More Triumphant
The past is part of the big picture. My mistakes, big and small, are paint on the canvas of my life. They’re brushstrokes that have colored my character and created contrast. Hard work makes my sleep sweeter, just as mistakes make my successes more triumphant. They help me see how bad choices can sometimes lead to good outcomes, and how life holds lessons within them like tiny birds in a mud-twig nest.
Next time your brain shifts to regret, remember to embrace your mistakes, knowing they have the power to propel you to your best self.