I have a crooked pointer finger. It’s ugly and it embarrasses me (hurts, too). I use my hands expressively, and when I gesture to point, the line of sight isn’t straight at all but rather sharply curved inward.
So, what’s the point of making a point?
Or, is the point that perfection is crooked? That the path to our goals, dreams and aspirations is what happens along the way – and is often awkward, uncomfortable and most certainly not as imagined. I know this crooked journey to be true for my clients and for me alike.
Perfection is the Amygdala in Overdrive
I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. There’s inevitably dog hair on every piece of black clothing I wear and sometimes tags hang from my clothing (groan). And I love to go with the flow.
So, perfection is something that others struggle with, but not me, right?
Well. My colleagues and those closest to me would reflect that I’m pretty hard on myself. As a dear friend called it – I’m an extra credit girl, which makes it sound friendly when in fact it’s an inner voice that can be pretty stern. I appreciate that this voice once served a critical purpose. It got me out of bed and to school, and to do-do-do during my tumultuous teenage years. I am grateful for its dedication back then. Now, however, its chronic urgency rarely serves me.
I don’t need my amygdala in overdrive.
Progress Over Perfection
Progress makes a bigger impact on our fulfillment than perfection, and it’s realized in the spaces and places between our goals. Otherwise, if we expect straight-line accomplishments, we will remain walled within our comfort zone and masking the fear of taking risks. In this empowering article Do You Overprepare, the author notes:
“Being prepared to perfection is more likely to become perilous when our roles expand and grow.”
Last Friday I had the opportunity to experience my prepared-to-perfection and the spaces of progress in between. I had arrived at a testing center for a three-hour exam. As instructed, I locked everything except my body into the locker.
Upon being situated at my computer, the administrator started the clock and sat down. But wait – HELP! – the words were blurred on the monitor. Oh, I needed my computer glasses. Up I popped and simultaneously up he popped to dutifully supervise as I went to my locker.
Meanwhile, the clock was ticking.
Back at my desk, I could now see the words. But wait – HELP! – the words were wiggling. I moved the monitor back and forth to no avail. Oh, my stigmatism. But then I realized the screen was so bright that I was squinting.
Three hours of this ahead?
Frozen, it occurred to me that I might fail. And with that thought, I was flooded with an odd sense of relief, and an idea: Why don’t I pretend I’m reading a really good novel at bedtime and I’m exhausted?
It turned out that keeping my focus was harder than I imagined. My eyes burned and the monkeys of my mind kept flying in with insistent and repetitive questions: You have a proposal due today, are you prepared? And did you follow up on that e-mail? Are you sure that person understood you?
OMG! Go away!!! I need to focus! Yet over and over again the monkeys intruded.
Two hours and forty-five minutes later, I passed my exam to become a credentialed coach with the International Coaching Federation. For an extra-credit perfectionist, nothing less than an A has ever been acceptable. This was a pass/fail exam; and while I did not receive a score that correlated with an A, I’ll take it!
Great things take time to unfold and the momentum of growth matters. Learning takes place in the hidden spaces and places of connection. That’s why it seems like all at once we feel the change, recognize the goal achieved, the dream realized or a new skill strengthened.
Richard Rohr in Falling Upwards notes:
“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
Where are your hidden spaces of connection? How do you honor your participative learning and living into new ways of thinking and being? And how about laughter, too? Here’s to perfection not as a crook but rather the crooked path to our fulfillment.