My intention is to share how I rose after years of difficulty in hopes that it may be a bit of light on your path.
And, in the midst of ‘much’ this week, it feels fitting to write about how practicing imperfection gave (and gives) me, little by little, increasing peace (well, sometimes. I am a work in progress).
This took (well, takes) choosing what I call Process over Perfection.
Process over Perfection is making my way through a challenging day, hour, or moment – rather imperfectly. It is deciding, sometimes, to halfway finish a task instead of completing 5 flawlessly.
Choosing Process over Perfection means I continue taking steps in the direction I’d like to go without being immobilized by the thought of a massive task. Sometimes it is completing with excellence and other times it is good enough; I just keep putting 1 foot in front of another. It’s a decision to do 1 small task at a time and a choice for good now instead of perfect later (that isn’t halting progress).
It is practicing, practicing, (and, ahem, more practicing) not being hijacked when my brain screams ‘this is not good enough!’ and giving ‘whatever’ a go – with minimal effort, fewer steps and/or less time – and gaining a bit more calm in my life.
Process over Perfection might involve doing nothing (perhaps via pausing, praying, waiting for emotion to die down, and/or silence) or looking at an (enormous, horrific) challenge and saying, I don’t have to conquer this and, maybe, I don’t even have to do anything about this (– i.e. less controlling and trying to fix).
It’s making a stab at what I think I cannot do or that I might not try because I think I will stink at it – and being ok with a rather shoddy outcome while possibly experiencing fun because I tried something new (like lacrosse with our son in the backyard on a sunny day).
When I catch myself being hard-on-me, saying ‘Process over Perfection’ to myself (or out loud…) helps me be ok with doing something partway or decently enough and aids me in finding the gift in the imperfect – while practicing a more tolerant way of being (in front of our son).
I understand that perfectionism has an upside. Running my first company, completing marathons, or accomplishing behemoth tasks were aided by perfectionism yet the costs, for me, were too great to ignore. The downside to perfectionism, and being unable to let mediocre be ok sometimes, was that I suffered, in lost time, dented-up relationships and a brain that way-too-often hollered ‘it isn’t good enough.’ Sigh. Realizing that perfectionism (um, driven by anxiety) actually sometimes ended up handing me my feared consequence was a wakeup call.
Process over Perfection says, the dinner is fair, the laundry is piled up, the report isn’t finished, QuickBooks is not up to date, my task list is hardly begun…and I am going to bed anyway. Instead of the perfectly completed to-do list, there’s a well-rested, more calm, more present wife, mother, business partner, neighbor or friend.
So, in honor of Process over Perfection, I am finishing this to you without a fitting quote from 3 books I was considering, I have not edited this 7 times, and I am off to spend a bit more time with my family…
Perhaps consider, with Process over Perfection, choosing bit by bit to let something small here or there go or do it less than meticulously… and, maybe, you will find a bit more peace or time or grace…
Without the perfect ending – yet with love,
Original Email Date May 15, 2020
Click to listen to audio podcast of above post.