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Turn “Mistakes” Into Research

by jenny sansouci on August 8, 2012

I’ve found that a lot of people who embark on a journey of health/wellness/nutrition/healing/recovery/etc find themselves caught in the trap of trying to be completely perfect with whatever path they’ve chosen. We get these ideas in our mind of how we “should” be, and if we take one step away from that image of perfection we feel guilty or like a failure. Right? I see it happen all the time with my friends, and it’s definitely happened to me.

Whether it’s about consuming a “forbidden” food or drink or acting in a way that isn’t aligned with the healthy standards you’ve set for yourself (or that someone else has set for you)…making a “mistake” can seriously mess with you. It might be that you’ve practiced a certain way of living or performed at a certain standard for so long that you define yourself by it. And then one day, maybe something changes. Something leads you to break your pattern of perfection – maybe you have a “f*ck it” kind of day, maybe you just don’t have the willpower to keep up with your own expectations, maybe you have cravings that you don’t feel like you can control….but whatever the reason, you find yourself doing the very thing you’ve been avoiding.

This Missy Higgins quote always makes me think of these scenarios:

“You make boundaries you’d never dream to cross….and if you happen to, you wake completely lost.” -Missy Higgins, The Special Two

One of my greatest teachers, Annemarie Colbin once said something that I really loved. She said there’s no room for guilt, it’s a wasted emotion, especially when it comes to our food or health/wellness choices. Instead of looking at these things as mistakes, she said, just look at them as research. If you eat something (or do something) and it makes you feel crappy, and you have a bad day because of it, GREAT! That’s awesome information, and now you know more about yourself. Now you can make more informed choices next time. It’s easy to beat ourselves up for “messing up,” but looking at this stuff as research can change the whole game.

Sometimes taking what may seem like a step backwards can actually help us live with more clarity and consciousness, as we notice how we feel after it happens. Once in awhile certain “mistakes” can be super enlightening. I know there have been things that I cut out of my life completely for a long time because I thought I should. I fantasized about how great it would be if I could add them back in. When I finally gave in to some of those things, I found they were never as good as I had dreamed they would be. Not even close. So now when I don’t choose to have them, it’s actually a CHOICE, rather than a rule. That’s a much higher level of freedom. There’s a significant difference between choosing a certain way of life because you think you should do it, vs. choosing a certain way of life because it feels awesome. And sometimes it’s those little detours from perfection that help us get that clarity.

For instance, one example is that I rarely eat sugar, but at this point it’s not because I just “think it’s bad for me,” but because I’ve eaten it enough times to know it just makes me feel like crap. I don’t like feeling that way, nor do I have time to. Knowing that, I just naturally don’t choose it most of the time. I don’t beat myself up if I have sugar once in awhile, I just notice how I feel when I do, and it’s always a good reminder of what makes me feel vibrant and what doesn’t.

I think my point is, so many times we tend to get so tripped up about what we should and shouldn’t do, what’s good or bad to eat, what behaviors we should or should not participate in. But if we look at all of our actions as research and truly notice what genuinely feels good, and truly notice what wasn’t worth it, we can create an existence that might not be perfect all the time, but it’ll be a ride of growth, learning and development. Tweaking and enhancing the recipe of your life sounds way more fun than judging your every move, right?

So ditch the word “mistake” when it comes to your wellness and notice how every action you take strengthens your internal compass and your capacity to create more of the good stuff.

In yoga class tonight, our teacher made a reference to this concept which I thought was brilliant:

“Look at your life as a garden. You can choose to water certain seeds. You can choose to destroy certain seeds. But first you have to watch. Watch your garden. Make it yours.” -Rima Rani Rabbath, Jivamukti NYC

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Paige August 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Just what I needed today, Jenny!



jenny sansouci August 9, 2012 at 1:10 am

sending you love Paige!


Jessica August 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Ive never commented before, but I just had to say thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I’ve already read it multiple times and have it bookmarked. I feel guilt constantly, most often centered around eating habits, and I feel very lost with regard to food. I’m in the limbo of figuring out what to eat health-wise and what I ethically want my diet to look like. Your words have given me more than I can express. Thanks again 🙂 Jessica


jenny sansouci August 9, 2012 at 1:09 am

Jessica, thank you so much for your comment – it means a lot to me – and I can totally relate. xo


Amanda August 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Great post, Jenny! 🙂 I like that idea of watching your garden and observing. I do that when I find myself getting trapped in the “shoulds and should nots.”


Mireille April 3, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Jenny, I just spent time scrolling on FB and felt like a massive time waster and wondered again what drew me to it. Now I read your most recent post and this one and am taking notes in my journal and feeling awesome again. I’m doing my research. And I wanted to say I looooove your writing! E.g. “…swimming in an insane pool of self-inquiry” – If this is what staying off sugar helps you to create, I’m sold!


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