Why Your Last Mistake Is Your Best Teacher

Learning is trial and error. Making mistakes doesn’t make us less capable, because making an effort in life also brings failures. On the mat, yoga is a learning laboratory where the goal is the process of trying the pose. Balance poses are an especially powerful way to test your learning.

Simply put: We all fall down. The growth happens when we learn from the falling and apply it to our next attempt. Poses allow us to practice making decisions. We learn and apply feedback while holding ourselves compassionately accountable for our efforts. I often tell my students on and off the mat, “Those that make it look easy have fallen the most.”

We practice through trial and error, stumbling and falling. Then we listen. Why? Because in yoga, the poses are the questions. They aren't the answers. Often the better questions are more challenging to our balance. They test our integrity. The listening is our demonstration of self-respect.

Once a new pose becomes easy, spiritual growth takes place when we challenge ourselves to expand our range to try a more advanced version. When you go outside your comfort zone, you'll fall and fail from time to time. However, growth only happens when you're in uncharted territory. Yoga teaches you to be comfortable with discomfort.

In fact, how you deal with failure says a great deal about you. Observing your mental and physical habits is what provides the learning. For instance, do you:

  • Hold back, stay in your comfort zone and play it safe all the time?
  • Get upset when you make mistakes?
  • Quit early, as soon as it gets uncomfortable?
  • Blame those around you when you can’t do it?
  • Stand around and watch everyone else try?
  • Live with regret for not attempting to stretch toward your greatest intentions?

Your best teacher is your last mistake. Here are five things everyone can learn from mistakes:

1. Reduce your addiction to fear. Since the fear of failing is high on the list, once you make a mistake, face this one head on.

2. Live with fewer regrets.

3. Find solutions more quickly.

4. Be easier on yourself, less critical, less judgmental. If we all wore a shirt with our five biggest mistakes printed on the front, we’d quickly realize we aren't alone.

5. Learn how not to give up at the first sign of discomfort or failure. You can push back the early quitting point.

I've certainly learned more from my mistakes than I have when life's been easy. I’ve learned to listen more intently to the underlying message. What I’ve realized is that I’m often a slow learner. I’ve run out of gas (figuratively and literally) more than once. I’ve fallen out of poses more times than I can count. I’ve fallen off a bike more than once. I’ve had my heart broken many times. I’ve lost my patience over something trivial. I've gained strength and broadened my courage through every repeated mistake. As a result, I’m more honest with myself.

My fear of being less perfect no longer paralyzes me. I know what it means to live in my own integrity and fully embrace the encyclopedia of my human experience. The truth is, with every mistake I must surely be learning.

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