Health & Wellness

4 questions that'll turn any failure into an awesome life lesson

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life lessons

Take a moment. Reflect on a past “failure” or “mistake.” Notice how your energy shifts. Not a great feeling, right?

That’s because your focus was on what went wrong, rather than the solution.

Now try this: Focus on a life lesson, something you learned from a situation. The energy feels more positive.

It’s easy to get stressed about the things we didn’t do right or very well. After all, it’s in our natures as human beings to remember mistakes in order to ensure our survival. If we forgot that fire burns, we’d keep burning our fingers. Unfortunately, many people take this survival instinct too far, mentally flogging themselves for perceived mistakes and failures. This contributes to stress hormones flooding our bodies, creating a toxic environment for our organs, wreaking havoc on our ability to problem solve or think clearly, and standing in the way of us living our best lives. None of us were born with a how-to handbook on life. We learn through trial and error. The truth is, our missteps can give way to new insights and revelations. The next time you make a “mistake,” answer these four questions:

  • What was I thinking, feeling or doing that contributed to this outcome? If you never review how you contributed to the problem, you can’t effectively learn or change things.  
  • If I had to do it over again, what could I do differently or better? These are strategies to remember and follow through on in a similar situation.  
  • Am I holding on to guilt and shame about this “failure”? If you are, cut it loose. These types of judgments and feelings can keep you stuck.
  • What other insights or nuggets of wisdom can I take from this experience? Remember that we’re here to learn and grow from our experiences.

Jane Ehrman, M.Ed, CHES is a Mind-Body Coach at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Integrative Medicine and a Behavioral Health Specialist for Lifestyle 180, Cleveland Clinic’s disease reversal program. Need more mind-body insights? Visit Jane on and learn:

Why you need time alone 

How to adjust to the unexpected

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.