5 Steps to Help You Move Beyond Past Mistakes

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Sometimes I get things wrong. Okay, quite often I do. Some of those mistakes are minor like the time I thought I'd look good with short hair, or the time I decided to scrape the mold off of some food in my refrigerator and eat it anyway. Yes, I did that. Yes, I ended up in the hospital with food poisoning. Lesson learned.

Other mistakes have more long term consequences. In college, I decided to major in something I wasn't really interested in, because I wasn't confident enough to choose the major that was right for me. Majors can be changed and I changed mine on multiple occasions, but I didn't study writing and art like I wanted.

5_steps_to_help_you_move_beyond_past_mistakesUpon graduating, I picked a job that I really wasn't suited for. This resulted in more frustration and unhappiness which I chalked up to being the natural order of life. I thought everyone spent their days doing something they didn't really like to earn a living. That was part of being an adult. Apparently, that wasn't completely true, but it took me years to figure it out.

Once I decided to move my whole family to another country even though we were absolutely broke. That was one of the most difficult struggles I've ever experienced in my life. There was a point when I really thought we would end up homeless in the dead of winter in a country we didn't really know. Fortunately with some help from family and hard work mixed with a bit of luck, it all worked out in the end.

Mistakes, failures, missed opportunities, lapses in judgment … none of these seem good, but they are a part of all of our lives. They can be minor bumps in the road or giant mountains to climb. You can let them stop you in your path or you can find a way around them. It's your choice.

I used to beat myself up over my mistakes. Nobody could be as stupid as I was … How could I have done such a thing … What was I thinking? Years later I'd revisit the same mistakes and wonder what could've been if I'd just chosen something else. I'd imagine how my life would've changed.

The problem with this thinking is that it was a waste of time. It's not like I had a time machine that I could hop into and actually change what happened. The past is done. What I could've done if only doesn't matter because it's already done. What matters is what you choose to do with that information now.

How do you treat your mistakes? Do you beat yourself up like I did? Do you imagine how you could've avoided it? Or are you able to move on with your life and put that mistake behind you?

Each mistake we make helps build us as people. The good and the bad from your past have all contributed to who you are today. You cannot erase the past. You can only change the future by doing something different today.

Here are some tips that will help you forgive yourself for past mistakes and move forward.

Realize you are not alone. Everyone has mistakes in there past. Even the people you admire and look up to are not perfect. They've stumbled in the past just as you have.

Take an honest look at your mistake. What part did you have in it? What part did others have? How did the whole situation make you feel? It's only by stripping your feelings bare that you can begin to heal.

Forgive yourself. We are all human. We make mistakes. That's just part of life. It's to be expected. You were probably doing the best you could at the time. Now that you know better you can do better.

If necessary, make amends. If someone else was hurt by your mistake you may want to make amends with that person. This isn't always necessary or even advisable. You of course have to use good judgment to decide whether this step is appropriate in your situation.

Look for the lessons. Every mistake contains a lesson. What can you learn from yours? How will it effect how you behave when in a similar circumstance in the future?

One of the many beautiful things about life is that each day we start with new opportunities and new choices. Don't be gripped by the past. That will only prevent you from having the bright future that you deserve. Forgive yourself. It is time to move on.

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About the author

Lovelyn Bettison

H. Lovelyn Bettison is an author and artist who enjoys helping people live their best lives. She has made a free Self-Forgiveness Worksheet for the readers of Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life. You can get your copy of the worksheet here.