If at first you don’t succeed…

As I write, the people of Scotland are going to the polls to decide whether or not their country should remain part of the United Kingdom, and there is a huge spider on its freshly spun web sitting on the other side of the door into the garden.

What’s the connection?

photo (70)Well, the spider reminded me of the tale of Robert the Bruce, the Scottish King and crusader for independence in the early 1300s. Exiled after being beaten by the English, it is said that he took refuge in a cave where he watched a spider trying to make a web. Although the spider fell again and again, it kept on climbing back up until it had managed to stick its thread to the cave wall, enabling it to start weaving.

Legend has it that Bruce was inspired by the little spider’s tireless efforts, decided not to give up and went on to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. The story is often used as an illustration for the saying ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.’

I wonder what Robert the Bruce would think, 700 years later, about the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns wielding social media instead of swords.

And the spider on my back door? She’s beautiful, as you can see from the photo. Sitting resplendent on her painstakingly spun web, waiting for passing flies, she has no idea that her hard work is soon going to be torn down when we next need to open the door. The thing is, I suspect that this is the same spider that has spun her web in exactly the same place several times over the last week.

When, eventually, I have to open the door, will it be the right thing to do for her to try, try, try again, after several attempts have ended in failure? Or should she give up completely or try somewhere else?

What if Scotland stays part of the UK after today? Will the ‘Yes’ campaign give up, try again or do something else? I can imagine Robert the Bruce turning in his grave at the idea…

It’s not always the best way forward to keep pushing. Sometimes (often!) there are obstacles in the path on the way to what you really want, and it can be a tricky but rewarding ride. Other times, it can be a sign to change path or just stop altogether.

This doesn’t have to be Scottish Independence or web weaving of course. It can be a career path, a relationship, a business plan, a relocation or even just an evening out.

There’s often a lot of emotional investment put into decisions about which path to take. Dedicated political campaigners, people who have studied a certain field for years, couples who have spent decades building a life together – none of these people are going to find it easy to stop or change, even when the signs are telling them that the door will keep opening every day, destroying their web.

I once coached someone who was a musician. Talented as a very young child, he had been placed on the fast track at the age of 7. All of the decisions made for him and eventually by him had been based around his music and his future career, but he had reached his early 30s and had enough. He worried that, if he changed track, he would have ‘wasted’ the years he had spent on his music. After a while, he realised that he would actually be wasting his life if he continued to pursue something that no longer gave him pleasure.

So, how do you know whether to try, try, try again or to change your path? Here are some thoughts:

  •  Our choices are governed by 2 main motivators – fear and love. Feel into your decision. Is it one you have made motivated by love or by fear? What happens if you try the other one on?


  • Make sure that you have considered all the options. Could you perhaps alter some variables – try again but after a break maybe, or change your course a little but aim for the same destination?


  • Trust your intuition and help to give it a voice by journalling, drawing or creating in some other way. See what comes out.


  • Set a date for making the decision, then keep an open mind, gather information and keep checking in with yourself. By the date you have set, you will be in a better place to make a choice.


  • Look at the evidence. Is this working for you? Do you feel relief or disappointment when you think about letting go?


  • Remember there are no right or wrong decisions – just different consequences and how we choose to handle them. Stop, change course or continue consciously with a positive intent – it’s all good.


Robert the Bruce’s spider inspired him to press on and defeat the English. My garden door spider has inspired me to learn from mishap and mistake and change my course as necessary. If at first you don’t succeed… what will YOU do?


Need some help with pressing on or letting go? Let’s talk.


If at first you don’t succeed… — 2 Comments

  1. A great article Claire. Very wise words. It’s always difficult to know whether the continuous trying is worth it or will ever pay off. But I’ve gradually begun to notice the signs for when things are right and worth sticking with and when things are not right.

    • Interesting, Thea. What sort of signs work for you? And how do you discern them? Glad you liked the post and thanks for commenting!

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