Sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Relationships falter. Obstacles seem insurmountable. And just getting to the next day feels overwhelming. At times like these, we have to remember that it is OK to struggle.
We don’t have to be perfect. We do not need to have all the answers. Sometimes all we have are questions. But that is often a good place to start. And then we begin again, one foot in front of the other, perhaps not seeing the whole path ahead, but just enough to know where to put each foot.
“Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Uncomfortable? Yes. Exhausting and overwhelming and painfully hard? Yes. But not impossible. And it won’t necessarily feel this difficult and debilitating forever. You’ve made it through similar hard things before. You’ve survived every single bad day and every obstacle the universe has ever thrown at you. You’ve survived all the things you felt convinced would break you. Every single one. And this is evidence that you can make it through this too.
“You don’t have to figure everything out today. You don’t have to solve your whole life tonight. And you don’t have to tackle everything at once. You just have to show up and try. You just have to focus on the most immediate thing in front of you. And you have to trust that you’ll figure out the rest along the way. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. And its okay to make mistakes. You’re still learning how to navigate this new path. It’s going to take time, and you’re allowed to give yourself that time. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to get all A’s or be the best version of yourself or outperform everyone else. All you have to do is show up and try. It’s always been enough before. It will be enough this time too.”
— Daniell Koepke
Here’s to you finding the light to take that next step, and then the next and the next, until your path leads you out of this present darkness. It is OK to struggle.
Who among us can make it from birth to grave without a mistake? Mistakes are such an inevitable part of trying something new, of learning, of growing that it would be impossible. And yet we don’t like to admit that we make mistakes. Constantly. But perhaps the real harm is in not learning from our mistakes, not stretching our view of the world to admit a new insight, not bending our routine to reflect a better way of doing something, not opening up to a perspective we hadn’t considered. As we take stock of ourselves today, let’s consider all the ways we’ve grown in our beliefs, our behaviors, and insights. We used to believe the world was flat, but now we see it is round, and that makes a world of difference.
Mistakes are inevitable. As you practice a piano piece, you’ll hit some clunkers. Go on. As you learn to walk, you’ll stumble. Keep walking. As you reach out in kindness, you may be rebuffed. Keep being kind.
Consider this fascinating account of some of Thomas Edison’s unknown mistakes:
“One of the things that makes Edison stand out as an innovator was he was very good at reducing the risk of innovation—he’s not an inventor that depends on just one thing,” DeGraaf says. “He knows that if one idea or one product doesn’t do well he has others…that can make up for it.”
It turns out artists make a lot of mistakes. We only think they are wonderfully talented, with perfect products immediately dripping off their paintbrushes or keyboards, because we see the finished product and not all of the drafts and abandoned projects along the way. So when we sit down to write or draw or craft or hum out a melody, we can set aside the worry that we aren’t up for the task if our first efforts are less than perfect. Mistakes are the training ground. The more the better because each teaches us what doesn’t work or how something could work better. It is all practice making us more perfect. What’s a failure is being scared to start.
What if the world knew you only by the worst thing you’ve ever done? Assume everything’s public, no secrets, anything can be known by everyone. That’s a tough scenario, isn’t it? What would people think if they could see all the bad things you’ve done, the cruel things you’ve said, the opportunities to be kind you’ve missed?
Some of us live that reality–known by one event, judged by all and found lacking–the drug addict, the convict, the molester, the drop-out, the neglectful mom. And yet each of us is incredibly complex, capable of both good and bad, cruelty and kindness, and, most importantly, redemption.
How all of our souls hunger for someone to see that, even when we make mistakes, there is good in us, too, that we aren’t all bad. That mistake shouldn’t define us. Imagine how much more that is true for someone who has been shunned by society because of one wrong turn.
What can we do to look at each other as we see ourselves, complex, erring individuals worthy of love? What can we do to recognize that we are all kin?
Children are born discoverers, unafraid to make mistakes. Everything is new. Around every corner, a new adventure.
Somewhere along the way, though, we are taught it is wrong to make mistakes, and we avoid them at all costs, even, sometimes, by sticking to what we already know well rather than venturing out to try new things.
But what’s so bad about making a mistake? Is it even a mistake, really, if we learn from it?
Many medical breakthroughs and inventions came from mistakes. Post-it notes, microwaves, penicillin, artificial sweetener, chewing gum, x-rays. On and on. Things discovered by mistake.
When we get afraid to try new things or do things differently, we fall into a rut and diminish our ability to create and see new points of view. Our one way of doing and thinking wears a groove in our brains. In short, we turn into old, rigid people.
Getting out of those ruts, can re-engage our brains and creativity and cause us to make new connections, see new perspectives, discover new things. But first, we need to abandon our fear of mistakes and replace it with curiosity.
What is right there, just outside your normal way of doing and seeing, waiting to be discovered?
So you’ve made some mistakes. Maybe lots of mistakes. Maybe the same mistakes over and over.
Welcome to the club. The club of people who’ve made mistakes. A club that, if we’re being honest, embraces all of humankind since its inception.
Maybe it’s time to stop beating yourself up about the mistakes you’ve made. Maybe it’s time to let yourself try again. Maybe, and this one is perhaps the most difficult, maybe it’s time to stop pretending that you haven’t made mistakes. That’s one mask that will just get too heavy to wear for much longer.
So you’ve made mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and to, hopefully, make different mistakes next time. And to learn from those, too. And so on.