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Progress Not Perfection
Posted: Monday 9th March 2020 | Euan Jackson
Perfection sounds a virtue to apply to doing things but many never live out their dreams for fear of not doing everything just right. Far better is progress. Here's how.
Everybody has a creative impulse; in some it is more pronounced; in others it is there but dormant, unexercised.
Then there are those who have many creative talents but are inhabited by factors that mean their abilities are never expressed to their full potential; the frustrated creative remains unfulfilled and the inner gnawing remains all their life.
You may recognise it in your own life. You are full of ideas and inspiration. You are confident in your own abilities to realise the end goal for your idea but something is conspicuously absent in the process: there is no outcome, there is no product, there is no actual doing of the very thing in question.
Procrastination is often the most maligned cause of a stifled creative process. It is easier to visualise the success of our ideas than to actually carry them out. We will do it when the feeling or the timing is right. This paralysis can affect all of us at different times and none are exempt from the need to just push through the pain barrier and do something, anything, to get momentum forward.
However, there is something else as equally effective in killing our ideas: PERFECTIONISM.
Throughout my life, I have started many projects and hobbies; songwriting, books, business ideas, crafts, arts and the like but which have never come to fruition. I never doubted my abilities but the fear of not doing it perfectly has been a constant bane in my life hampering me from seeing something through to the end.
"If I can't do it perfectly, I'm not going to do it at all!" - in a nutshell, this is what we tell ourselves. It sounds respectable even virtuous, that if we are going to do something, then we should do it to the best of our abilities or else not attempt it.
However, notice the subtle distinction between the attitude of doing something the best we can and doing it perfectly. It is very difficult to execute anything perfectly, every time, all the time.
On reflection of my life, there are many things I have wanted to do, to make, to be, but have not done so. Not through the opportunities being barred to me or lack of money, time or resources. Rather, fear of not being able to control every aspect so I could carry out each task with perfection.
Fear that if things were not done perfectly, then my ideas and talents would not be validated or vindicated.
Once, I started to discern my resistance to act decisively and recognise the things I felt passionate about were hamstrung by an obsession to do it perfectly or not at all, I had a watershed moment of both hope and also regret.
Regret for wasted opportunity, but hope, that with a few mental tweaks, there is still time to become and do all I want to do with what remains.
I suspect many people have the same inhibition and justify inactivity on the grounds that they will only attempt something if they can only do it with an assured degree of success, personal recognition and a scorecard of perfect 10's from the watching world.
All this flawed thinking is the source of endless frustration, creative paralysis and a life that is lived on the level of mediocrity.
Far more important is to get moving in the direction of your goals and dreams. To do something to put flesh on your ideas; to not only visualise the end result but to take the first steps.
Doing so, you make progress. It may not be perfection and it may look chaotic at first, but you are doing something that, if you keep going, will bring your dream nearer, your gifts to bear upon others sooner.
Even if you only take one small step today to fulfilling your plans or doing what you really want to do, you are a million miles ahead of the one who will not do a thing in life for fear of not being able to do it perfectly.
Their masterpiece remains in their head; yours is being sculpted and taking shape every time you act on the impulse to make solid progress rather than cultivating illusory perfection in your head.
Acquiescence to perfection requires no courage. You never have to prove yourself. You can die without ever having had the failure of your ideas. The majority of men have died unproven.
The harder but ultimately more rewarding path awaits those who do not fear failure, can forgive imperfections and themselves, misunderstandings and the voice of critics along the way.
Progress not perfection, will get you there in the end. To decide to do so and take the first step of action today is worth more than all the currency of perfection in the world!
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