Coming up to the middle of the year, I’ve completed nine of my 19 things I wanted to do this year. That’s pretty close to half, although the pedant in me says that half of 19 is nine-and-a-half, which is rounded up to ten, so I should have completed ten things to be on track at the half-way point.
The realist says that’s ridiculous and that many of the things are more than half-finished so if you added in all of those to the mix, then the grand total would be way more than ten.
The pedant says that’s stupid and that a thing is either done or it isn’t done and only nine things are done. There is no part-done . . . and so I let my brain carry on its pointless argument while I actually sit down and do things. Or write about them, which isn’t really achieving anything. Well, it is. I like writing and I’m trying to improve, so any writing I do is helping me do this. I hope.
By writing these posts relatively quickly and publishing them, it’s also helping to reinforce the message in my brain that “done is better than perfect”, a concept I struggle with. I touched on this in my Weekend Wisdom post this week, and I lived the experience on Tuesday morning.
Tell me more, I hear you say.
To set the scene, I’ve been feeling more and more like I’m getting my walking back on track (see what I did there?) since I got sick in May and stopped doing my morning walks. I think it must be three weeks now, maybe four, when I’ve been for a walk every morning even if, on a couple of days, it was just to the end of the street because it was all I could do that day (because I slept through the alarm and had no time. True story).
On Tuesday, the “do what you can do” got taken to another level. It was freezing cold. I went outside for my walk at 5.45 and I could see frost on the road. What I didn’t realise was it was also on my driveway, which, although short, is steep. I discovered the frost pretty quickly when my feet started to slip out from under me and I just stopped myself from falling.
At first, I thought if I could just get to the road I’d be okay, but after three slips I still hadn’t got anywhere near the bottom of the driveway and I was worried about falling over. I slipped down my front stairs a few months ago and hurt my back really badly and I didn’t want to go through that amount of pain again.
I decided that walking wasn’t worth the risk of injuring myself and I stopped trying and went back inside. My fitness will not dramatically drop off because I missed one day. My health is my top priority, and I decided that if going for a walk presented a risk to my health that outweighed any benefit, I wouldn’t walk.
I told myself that I had walked to the extent that it was possible to walk that morning. I had followed the routine. I’d got up, got dressed and gone outside to walk. Just like the days when I only get to the end of the street and that’s okay if it’s all I can do that day, on Tuesday I got out of the house and onto the driveway and, in the circumstances, that’s all I could have done. It was my personal best that day. It was different from what my personal best would have been the day before and different from what it would be tomorrow. But it was okay for that day.
Was it a perfect morning walk? No. Did I do the best I could do in the circumstances? Yes. Was I happy with that? Yes.
I’ve told myself time after time that done is better than perfect and that “done” looks different every time. It’s an antidote to the other voice in my head that whispers “it has to be perfect or it’s not worth doing”. That’s the voice that usually wins, despite every argument I throw against it.
But lately, I’ve been noticing a shift. The “done is better” voice is getting stronger and drowning out the whispers of the perfectionist. I’m starting to feel like it’s okay to call something done if I’ve done the best I can with what I had in the circumstances I was in at the time.
It’s one thing to know something and another thing entirely to believe it and to live your life by it and I wonder why, having known this is true for many years, I didn’t accept it sooner. How different my life might have been if I had fully accepted this belief 10 or 20 years ago. But I didn’t, and there’s no point wondering. I’m learning to accept it now, and how I take it forward into the rest of my life is what matters, not what might have been, because I can’t change that.
I suppose it’s part of the journey of life that it takes time to incorporate new beliefs into your way of thinking and behaving. You can see the same phrase over and over again, read countless articles that say the same things from different angles and sit there nodding your head, thinking, “I have to start doing this”, but when it comes down to it, you carry on as you always have because you don’t really believe it.
Changing long-held beliefs is like trying to change any other habit you’ve had for a long time and struggled to break. It doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just wake up one morning and say, “hey, I’m not going to beat myself up for not being perfect any more” and never do it again, just like you don’t wake up one morning and decide to quit smoking and never do it again. (Well, I suppose some people do, but they are not me. I struggle with replacing behaviours that don’t support me with ones that do, so it comes as no surprise that I also struggle with replacing beliefs that don’t serve me with ones that do.)
I hope Tuesday morning is a turning point for me in my quest to overcome perfection. I hope that it has started to prove to me that it’s okay when my best isn’t really very good because what matters is that I did it, even though it wasn’t perfect. And that tomorrow I will have a chance to do it better. (And I did go for a walk in the middle of the day after the frost had gone.)
And so, to the pedantic perfectionist, which is still arguing with the realist, it’s half-way through the year and I’ve completed nine of my 19 things. Nine! Yay! You need to remember this was a wish list to guide me through the year, not a rigid set of goals that I had to achieve no matter what. Nine things completed and eight more in progress is tracking pretty well at the half-way point. So thanks for your thoughts but I’ll let that one go.
This week I only progressed three things.
Wait, no. I progressed three things. Three is good. I had a lot of other things on. I progressed three things on my wish list. Great!
I didn’t do any work on the photo course or Lightroom (things 1 and 19).
I’m working on trying to re-establish my evening routine and get to bed at a reasonable hour (thing 6) but I’m struggling turning my computer off at night when I’m not being productive, I’m just mindlessly scrolling and surfing. It might be relaxing but it’s not giving me the kind of rest that I really need.
I think I need to approach this with the “personal best” mindset, which is that any night where I get more sleep than I normally do is better than beating myself up because I didn’t turn the computer off at my scheduled shut down time and be in bed with the light off at precisely 10.30. No one will die if I’m still brushing my teeth at 10.35. The aim is a gradual shift into building the habit, just like I gradually got walking back into my life.
I stuck November’s collages into my photojournalist (thing 11) and I spent some more time tinkering with the draft list to go into the bucket list journal (thing 18).
Status for week 26
Things completed this week: 0
Things completed to date: 9 (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15)
Things I progressed: 3 (6, 11, 18)
Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (1, 2, 16, 17, 19)