Back in my days as a medicinal chemist, there was a red drum can that sat in the corner of the lab for proper chemical waste disposal. I came to know it as the “Red Can”.
The red can was where failed reactions went. When a chemical reaction failed to yield the product I was hoping for, I would even scribble RED CAN in all caps on my lab notebook page.
To me, the red can stood for failure. Back to the drawing board. Try something new.
As a proud Perfectionist at the time, I struggled when I felt there were a few too many reactions gone wrong.
I found them to be frustrating and defeating. When the molecules didn’t create what I wanted them to, it would translate into something personal: about my aptitude, my intelligence, and whether I was a good researcher.
Whether I knew what I was doing.
Given the nature of research (and as silly as it sounds) in the back of my mind, I believed that every reaction should go well on the very first try.
I had my eye on the final result the entire time, and judged my success by how quickly I could get there.
Our brains love to tell us that things should go right on the very first try. And that our plan should run seamlessly, in the lab or elsewhere.
But this is faulty thinking.
Our sneaky, perfectionist thinking creates unattainable rules for how things should go. And when we inevitably can’t meet our own standards for success, we judge ourselves for it.
We stay stuck in a destructive thought loop where we are too hard on ourselves and feeling miserable for it, thinking that this is the way it has to be.
There is another way to reach our goals, where Red Can moments take on a new meaning.
Because even in the negative data, there is still good stuff. There is value to be learned from our mistakes. All is not lost when things don’t go perfectly.
You are not lost.
Growth and discovery is supposed to be messy.
Your failed attempts inform you on what didn’t work for you. Failed attempts give you something to evaluate. They bridge the gap to success.
The only true fail is never get started on what matters most to you in the first place.
So just start.
Start small. Hold your goal lightly and gently.
Keep your plan simple, and be open to new solutions.
You don’t need to know everything to get started.
Between doing nothing and hitting the goal, it gets to be messy.
Ready to hit your goals (mess and all)? I’m here to help. I’m a wellness coach and Pilates instructor who helps busy women reach their health goals, releasing stress and overwork, and inviting in more ease, joy, and energy.
If you’re ready to reach your goals in the real (messy) world, send a message and tell me more.