When You Mess Up, Remind Yourself of This

No one gets it right the first time. Few people get it right the hundredth. And if what you’re working on is a matter of the heart (like healing or overcoming a struggle) then it might feel more like the millionth.

No baby stands up and runs a marathon. No inventor launches their idea the day they come up with it. No author types an entire book without using the delete key. No marriage or friendship or collaboration works without someone saying, “Oops, I’m sorry.”

We live in a world where we so often only see the final product. The flawless Instagram photo. The perfect gift landing on our doorstep in an Amazon box. The extraordinary song or poem or piece of art making us say, “Wow, I could never do that.”

But we don’t get to see what happened along the way. The failed attempts, the drafts in the trash can, the sleepless nights and screw-ups, the hours (or decades) spent in counseling, the spilled milk, shattered dreams, and skinned knees.

There is no such thing as overnight success.
There is only trying and failing—over and over and over.
Until one day it works.

Rather than asking, “What have you done?” perhaps say (even if it’s only a whisper), “Well done for trying.”

One of the biggest barriers we face is one little phrase: “I should be able to get it right by now.” But there is no timetable for growth. Ask a redwood tree or the Grand Canyon how long it takes. What matters isn’t perfection or speed; it’s continuing to yield to a process that’s beyond our understanding.

A sign on my desk says, “Mistakes are proof you are trying.” Mistakes are proof that you are attempting something worthwhile. Mistakes are proof that you care enough to risk your energy and emotions. Mistakes are one of the only ways you know you’re making progress.

When you don’t succeed, be gentle with yourself. Rather than asking, “What have you done?” perhaps say (even if it’s only a whisper), “Well done for trying.”

It may feel like you are alone in the moments you fail, as if no one else has ever had such a winding path to success with so many potholes and detours. But the reality is, repeated failure followed by learning is the normal way for imperfect people to get anywhere.

God is not surprised by this. He was there for the incident in the Garden of Eden, for the three denials of Peter, for every mishap any of us have been part of since the beginning of time. He loves us in the moments when we get it right; he loves us just as much when we get it wrong.

If at first you don’t succeed, it doesn’t mean you’re failing—it means you’re human.

More for You

Are you ever tempted to hustle? (Me too.) Hustle means exceeding our personal capacity in a way that hurts us in order to get the approval of other people. Last week on the More than Small Talk podcast, we had a conversation about why we’re all tempted to do this and a healthier approach that can replace it in 2024. Listen on your favorite podcast app.

A free gift: I’d love to send you 12 Fear-Fighting, Faith-Building printable Scripture cards! They go perfectly with my ebook Fear, I’m Over You: A 21-Day Challenge to Live with Less Worry and More Courage. The ebook is currently on sale for $1.99, but the Scripture cards are completely free here.

About Holley

About Holley

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author and Life Coach

I like humans, words, and good coffee. And I’d love to help you beat what’s holding you back, become all you’re created to be, and kick butt for the greater good.

Cheering you on,


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