Thinking Yourself Happy: Mistakes Can Be Beautiful

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus

Gary was amazed when one of the men at the office openly admitted having made some mistakes that morning. “I wonder why he didn’t cover it up? ” Gary thought to himself. He had been raised to believe that making mistakes is an indication of inferiority. Gary went out of his way to avoid making any blunders whatsoever.


Many people will find the following statement completely puzzling: “To make mistakes can be beautiful, not simply tolerable, not merely acceptable, not only necessary, but actually desirable.”

“That doesn’t make any sense!” we hear you exclaiming. “People think less of me if I make mistakes. Making mistakes is a sign of weakness. Anyone who makes a mistake appears stupid or foolish!”

Because so many people believe those unfortunate ideas, if they make a mistake they deny it, or try to cover it up. In truth,

• one of the major ways of learning is through correcting mistakes. Mistakes provide clues for further growth.

Assuming you must be “right all the time” is strongly anti-growth and leads to the constant need to be on guard and to cover up. It leaves you tense and defensive.

• Most people who observe mistakes will probably be relieved to see that you are human, and closer relationships will be possible.

Much unhappiness comes from the widespread and regrettable notion that it is important to avoid making mistakes in most situations, at all costs.

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Harold was a junior business executive with many creative ideas, but he was too afraid to stick his neck out and mention them in case he might be wrong and thus not be promoted. When he received his evaluation, his boss regarded Harold as unimaginative and therefore he was not promoted.

There are no absolute rules in this area, of course. In certain situations it is advisable to cover up mistakes, but such situations are few and far between. In fact, many good therapists tell their clients to draw attention to some mistakes instead of covering them up. We’ve often said: “Tell your friends about some of your major mistakes.” Those who follow this advice say that

• admitting errors gets easier and even enjoyable with practice.

You might even deliberately go out of your way to make some minor mistakes that are sure not to hurt anyone else. Allowing yourself to be genuinely human can be a valuable lesson in humility and stress management!


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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