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How To Stop Beating Yourself Up About Mistakes

NOTE: This is a guest essay by Michelle Ghilotti Mandel

The yogi-designer in me has always been attracted to the image of a spiral staircase. I love how it looks like DNA, how it represents cosmic patterns. I also feel the structure can mean far more.

Picture yourself making blunders at work, life, or love. Your mistake could be anything: you said the wrong thing, or didn’t come through with your end of the bargain.

You think, how did I let that happen?

What a (fill in the blank) I am.

I can’t believe I did that, again. If only I could rewind.

These can be very challenging feelings. However, we live our lives in irony. Although we don’t like how we feel, we continue to beat ourselves up..

We cause our own suffering

Furthermore, we seem to forget that when we make mistakes, we grow. A lens on growth is integral to joy. So we need to create happiness by viewing our errors as helpful growth opportunities.

Although yoga, psychology, and conventional wisdom scream at us to live in the moment, I say we are not just the present moment. 

We are very much our past in the most rich and helpful way. 

We can use past mistakes to yield a shiny new perspective and, in turn, create a new outcome.

In fact, our mistakes can even fuel our awareness. In helping us decide how to act and react in a fresh and fruitful way, they can bring us closer to happiness and further away from causing our own suffering.

Picture a most beautiful spiral staircase in Rome, Paris, London, NYC, or Barcelona.

Visualize its ample room.

Now visualize yourself on this staircase, midway up. You’re accomplished. You’ve come all this way.

Look up at where

 you’re going and down at where you’ve come from.

Peek around and up at the spirals of stair above; over and down at the spirals below.

Now comes the part that we don’t like that’s part of being human.

You’ve suddenly tripped up and missed a step.

Maybe you’ve done something similar before.

Look down at your feet. Yes, you are here, right now, and it’s close to before—but, not exactly.

You are wiser today than yesterday.

Though you might feel bad because you’re encountering a similar problem, this time it’s with a different perspective.

Accept where you are. You will immediately suffer less. 

Look down the middle of the staircase at what you’ve ascended.

Keep hold on this view of yourself and see where you are now in comparison.

Ask yourself:

How can I respond from this higher place instead of causing myself pain?

Welcome to your new spiral staircase-inspired mantra: 

I have a view. I hold wisdom. I use both.

Think it. Say it. Act on it. Let it create your new character.

Plus, here are 5 more ways to change your perspective:

1. Find strength in the visual of a staircase.

Make it your new BFF. Yes, you’re confronting something similar again, but this time it’s higher up the staircase.

Trust and respond from this place.

Ask yourself, how can I react differently this time given the learning from last time?

2. Remember that everything transforms.

Connect with the fact that with up comes down, with light comes darkness.

With down comes up, with darkness comes light.

When you find yourself smack in the middle of a day filled with disequilibrium, remember that yourequilibrium must be right around the corner.

Trust in the flow of your life and that of the universe.

3. Adopt a growth mindset.

Accept the idea of a failure en route to your goals. In essence, plan for some roadblocks, nod when they come (you knew they were coming), and move on as quickly as possible.

Accept that there always hidden life lessons in roadblocks. Exhibit this positive mindset in your thoughts, words, and actions. Teach this growth mindset perspective to your kids.

4. Practice saying “I’m sorry,” especially to those you wouldn’t normally say it to.

Saying these words filled with meaning forces you to move from your comfort zone and look at things from a different side.

Healthy, yes, but more importantly, it also brings you closer to the people who make life worth living.

5. Do a headstand or down dog.

Here’s another instant way to change your perspective. It’s difficult to feel and see things the same way if you’re upside down.

Namaste. And remember, when in doubt, take the spiral staircase. It really is the most pleasant route. See you there. I’ll be the one repeating the same mantra.

Oh – and I will leave you with this quote from Samuel Beckett.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Ghilotti Mandel is Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur, MGI, Branding, Coaching & Empowerment Agency.

She’s been featured in ORIGIN Magazine as one of the Nation’s Top Creatives.

Join her on www.michelleghilotti.com.


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Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.

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