Of mice and men!
I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, and while it has its advantages, it can also lead to plenty of inaction and unfinished tasks. A great example is this blog. I took up blogging a few years ago – but you would never know it! I spent loads of time agonizing over getting everything right – the words, the site, the host, I struggled with technical issues, and worried that no-one wanted to read my posts. I wanted them to sound a particular way, I wanted each post to be well thought out and perfect, and in the end, very few of them ever made it out of my computer (I emailed them to a couple of people), and even less of them made it out of my head! I had to accept that progress is better than perfection, and especially now that I have reached the twenty something post mark, and I have actually made the big leap of putting the posts out there on the net, I am still afraid that the quality is dropping etc. This is actually progress for me – for a long time I would have preferred to wait until everything was perfect before hitting “publish” and believe me – nothing is ever perfect.
However one of the biggest responsibilities that I have taken on in the past year has cured me of my perfectionism – I became the president of my Optimist Club! Now to those who are not familiar with the Optimist club, it is a voluntary and service organization that works predominantly for youth, and its purpose is “bringing out the best in our youth, our communities and ourselves”. Presidency (at least in our club) changes annually, and this year I was privileged to be in that position. It is almost over, and I think I may have mentioned previously – the lessons I learned there could be the subject of an entire blog on its own. One thing I had to do during this time was to release my perfectionistic nature. There is nothing like working with volunteers on projects for young people to show you that things will almost NEVER go to plan – no matter how perfectly you plan. And if you need the project to even be planned perfectly before you begin to execute it, then nothing will ever get done.
I remember learning during my training for the position that many fortune 500 companies insist on persons running voluntary organizations before moving up to higher management. It teaches many skills – organization, working with people, planning and execution, creativity, managing limited budgets, raising funds, leadership and inspiration to name a few. And in all honesty, it takes a completely different skill set to lead a group of persons who really don’t have to be there unless they choose to. In an office setting, people feel compelled to carry out tasks – something about that monthly paycheck is often a great incentive! Add to that the unpredictability of teenagers (and youth in general) and you really have to be ready to think on your feet.
The thing about being a perfectionist is that the thought of putting something out there that is less than perfect used to give me the heebie-jeebies (according to spell check that is an actual real word!). I literally used to get seriously offset at the thought of it – even to sleepless night level! And having been in the club a few years, I watched carefully what was happening, and came up with many a plan to ensure that I had a perfect year. Who was I kidding? The truth is perfect was something that existed in my own head. Almost everything that is done could be improved. Things get thrown in at the last minute, people get sick, or move on, or simply change focus. In reality – we are dealing with people and since I am not perfect, and neither is anyone else, it is simply unrealistic to plan for a perfect outcome. The other thing about working with people - more often than not they have way better ideas than I do, and at the end of the day – my perception of what is perfect is normally based on my own ideas about things.
More importantly – it is better to produce something real and tangible that is actually doing imperfect work serving people than to have something perfect in my head that is doing nothing (other than keeping me up at night). The advantage of having to think on my feet and solve problems as they come up, is that I have replaced a bit of the perfectionism with creativity and flexibility and they are equally important in life. In addition, the satisfaction of having something work regardless of the aspects that could be improved is nothing short of thrilling! And I have to constantly remind myself of that, instead of focusing on the aspects of it that could be improved. In addition, when working with people, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, including me. Lastly (and this is kind of a recurring theme) sometimes the imperfect outcome is way better than the perfect outcome that I had planned in my head. Sometimes, that flaw or spoil is just the thing that appeals to someone in a way that could never be predicted.
And as for the blog..... I once listened to an interview with a writer, and the interviewer asked him – is this the perfect book? And he said – no, but it’s done, which far beats something perfect that is unfinished. And I have found the same is true of the blog. I have decided to put the posts out there. Sometimes I find mistakes that I have to go back in and correct. And sometimes the posts that I spent ages agonizing over don’t appeal to anyone, and the ones I am not sure about seem to be the ones that resonate. So the moral of the story for me is (as Nike © would say) – “Just do it”! I can plan and plot, and make sure I am prepared, then I just need to let it go and let it happen – the project, the meeting, the blog post! And whatever happens, something is out there that wasn’t there before, and that in itself is an achievement.
And with this post, I bring you big love, from a small island.
Ps the above photo was taken at a lovely beach on the English West coast. If only I could remember the name of it...... Been a long time since I went there!