Do Your Mistakes Motivate You? How to Let Them

My original subtitle for my new book INSTINCT was “What Successful People Know But Won’t Tell You.” My thinking behind this idea emerged from the way that most successful people follow their instincts beyond the emotions of their failures. They don’t broadcast their mistakes or make that the headline of their resume, and so the rest of us don’t always realize that instinctive success requires risk-taking, failing, growing, and taking more risks.

Unfortunately, many people interpret any obstacle, setback, or mistake as a sign that they should abandon the pursuit of their dreams and ignore their instinctive wisdom. Many times, the wounds of our past failures accumulate and end up motivating us more than we realize. We become fixated on what we did wrong, blaming ourselves or blaming others, becoming bitter instead of better. Instead of learning as much as we can from these discouraging incidents—which is the secret that successful people discover, we end up getting trapped in them. We wonder why we cannot seem to move forward, and yet we continue to cling to something that happened a long time ago.

[RELATED: Sarah Jakes, “8 Spiritual Tips for Letting Love In”]

As a result of our bitterness, regret, and disappointment, we find ourselves running from present opportunities rather than risk the same outcomes. Or, we refuse to look at our motives, emotional baggage, and needs and find ourselves stuck, repeating past mistakes. We may instinctively know that in order to truly heal and move forward we must take responsibility for what we can and release what’s beyond our control.

Many people ask me why they seem to be attracted to the same kind of person over and over again, always with the same painful results. Investors and entrepreneurs will sometimes inquire as to why they continue to struggle, fail, and have to start again. Individuals battling addictions also know this feeling, a sense of being caught in a cycle of futility, frustration, failure from which they cannot find a way to escape.

[SEE MORE: Maria Shriver, “What’s Good For Men is Good For Women”]

It’s never easy, but our instinctive desire to survive and to thrive can help us break these patterns if we let them. But we must be willing to step back and look at our messes and mistakes with a more objective, critical perspective. We must be willing to look within and assess what needs are going unmet—as well as what pay-off we’re getting for remaining trapped in this cycle.

If you truly want to change your life and to experience the abundant satisfaction that comes from living instinctively, then you must be willing to examine the damage of past mistakes and clear the scene of the accident. Just as a car crash can block the highway for hours, our collisions often impede our ability to move forward into our destiny. Instead of doing the hard work that has to be done to clear the wreckage and begin again, we remain burdened by a past we can never change.

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However, we can change the future by taking responsibility and taking steps toward instinctive advancement in our present. Often this process requires that we let go of old baggage, heal from past injuries, and make room for the new growth awaiting our arrival. Sometimes we literally have to eliminate the clutter of the past from our lives and get rid of items that may have once served a purpose but now only get in our way. Often there’s emotional baggage that must be unpacked and released.

What evidence of your past failures continue to clutter your home, office, and mind? I challenge you to do some instinctive “spring cleaning” and get rid of sabotaging souvenirs, both physical and emotional. Make room for the new growth that your instincts want to cultivate. Think through what you’ve learned and dwell on what’s been gained, not on what’s been lost. Soon, you will become the successful person with the secret that others want to know!

About the Author

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Bishop T.D. Jakes called “perhaps the most influential black leader in America today” by The Atlantic, T.D. Jakes is a master communicator, entrepreneur, entertainment impresario, philanthropist, and best-selling author who unveils “INSTINCT” as the key to optimizing his success. You can learn more about T.D. Jakes and his new book at

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