Learning From Your Past Mistakes Doesn’t Mean You Have To Hold Onto Them

Learning From Your Past Mistakes Doesn’t Mean You Have To Hold Onto Them ©iStock/Oinegue

There’s a lot of conflicting advice floating around about how to live your best life. Don’t look back, but learn from your mistakes. Whatever you do, don’t repeat your mistakes, but don’t spend too much time worrying about them, either. No matter what we do, we can never completely escape from our past — but that really doesn’t mean that we need to dwell on it for the foreseeable future.

  1. Learning from your mistakes means letting go. Letting go doesn’t mean that your memory suddenly gets erased, it means that you leave it the bad emotions where they belong. Even better if you can turn them into good emotions, like humor or amusement at the weird choices you’ve made.
  2. Stop punishing yourself. Just because you did wrong once (or a thousand times) doesn’t mean you need to keep dwelling on those expereinces. We have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean every day, and although certain relationships can’t be rebuilt, when we move forward with intention, we find new ones.
  3. Stop assuming that history repeats itself. It certainly can, but if you don’t want it to, then you make a decision to approach life differently. We’re not doomed to repeat our mistakes once we decide that we just don’t need that drama anymore.
  4. It’s safe to think about why you made a bad choice. We can’t be fearful that processing a challenge means that we’re dwelling on it. You probably know the difference when you really think about it. That doesn’t mean thinking about tough stuff is fun, but usually when you gain some clarity with yourself, it’s easier to move on from it, anyway.
  5. You can’t change the past. A good reason we shouldn’t cling to the past is that it’s not going anywhere. It exists, but it usually only acts like it exists when you’re stuck in it. Other people forgive and forget because they’re busy worrying about themselves, so don’t assume anyone else is judging you for no reason.
  6. You can change the future. When we can lighten up a bit and stop judging ourselves so hard, that’s when we can change. You can make your amends and choose new directions to move in, and then follow the new path. No one can control that besides you, and it’s more in your control than you might think.
  7. We wouldn’t be who we are without the past. Try to think of one interesting person who hasn’t made nuts decision here and there. They don’t exist. Plus nuts things can make for some pretty good stories. We can’t put so much weight on the things that really don’t matter, when we should be focusing our energy on the things that do.
  8. It doesn’t really matter how you got where you are. As long as you continue to do better. We all change and grow throughout life. That’s sort of the point. Try thinking of your past mistakes as helpful clues that ended up pointing you in the right direction and be glad that they existed where they belong — in the past.
Kate Ferguson is a Los Angeles local and freelance writer for a variety of blog and magazine genres. When she's not writing, the UC Davis graduate is focused on pursuits of the entertainment industry, spin class, and hot sauce. Look for article links, updates, (and the occasional joke) on Twitter @KateFerg or @WriterKateFerg, or check out her personal blog ThatsRandomKate.blogspot.com