• Anne

You're going to screw up, and that's okay!

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

When you make a mistake, is it time to quit?

Too often we cripple ourselves with the fear of failure. We build an idealistic vision of what we want to do in some category and are often crushed that we don’t live up to it on our first try. Then, for some reason, we find ourselves giving up before we gave ourselves adequate time to learn the skill we were hoping to develop. The problem is: when you quit, you have automatically failed.

To avoid failure, one has to avoid everything

Screwing up isn’t failing - giving up is failing. Everyone who does anything well has screwed up. Guess what I’ve never screwed up in? Everything I’ve never tried! I’ve never lost a soccer game, I’ve never struggled in a graduate level history class, I’ve never been a bad parent, and I’ve never stumbled running a marathon. I’ve never failed because I never put myself in the context to succeed. Often we realize that we’ll never fail if we don’t try, but we forget that we’ll never succeed either!

The experts struggle the most

Ask anyone who is really good at something if they’ve messed up, and I guarantee you that their honest answer is yes. I’m a math person, and I like to remind my students that I have spent many more hours struggling on math problems than they ever have - because I’ve done significantly more math than they have. You never stop struggling - you simply struggle on more challenging concepts. At their age, I struggled to factor quadratics, and now I struggle to understand how tensors work. Struggling in a subject is a good sign that you’re challenging yourself enough to stretch your abilities and increase your potential.

You can do it!

I don’t want you to set a goal, find yourself not meeting your expectations right off, and then give up because you “aren’t good enough”. You are totally good enough to achieve well-planned goals. You just need to actually make a plan and then make consistent efforts to achieve it while being patient with your own shortcomings.

Make small, attainable goals

When creating your goals, narrow them down to just a couple of things so you can put your full attention to them. For instance, you can resolve to replace some of your consumption with creativity by writing whenever you have the urge to shop online, turning the radio in the car off to enjoy the silence, or swap TV time for talking time. Start with small, achievable goals. The more goals you meet, the more momentum you’ll build for bigger goals; it's a snowball effect. Make your goals specific, so you can concretely determine whether you are reaching them or not. And prepare to forgive yourself for falling short. These things take time and struggling is part of the process.


My challenge for you is to think of one specific, simple goal you have. Write out a plan with daily efforts to achieve that goal, and don’t give up - no matter how much you screw up. Enjoy the struggle!


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