I don’t really make new year’s resolutions (maybe cuz I am worried that using the term “resolution” will jinx me somehow), but if there was one thing I would focus on improving in 2012, it would be to reach out to others more for feedback in my endeavors and to experiment more publicly. (Okay, okay, it’s a resolution.)
I am a huge perfectionist. I get it from my mother and grandmother, who both said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” (Nevermind that “right” is a totally amorphous undertaking.) Until reading an article from Dr. Jeff Szymanski, the author of The Perfectionist’s Handbook, I never really connected my perfectionism with my likelihood to trudge forward on personal projects without much input from others. But apparently it is endemic of perfectionists to behave this way, and it makes perfect sense. Dr. Szymanksi outlines the tendency for perfectionists to think that showing a product to others in a potentially imperfect state creates the impression — primarily and perhaps even only to the perfectionist — that they aren’t showing their best work and are therefore performing below par, an assumption that makes one tend to hold something close to the chest until the very last moment. Yet he argues that early feedback and involvement from others can provide a stepping stone from which to make a number of previously unconsidered modifications that can allow any endeavor to shine that much more brightly. He argues that in order to be a true perfectionist, one has to go beyond their ingrained perfectionistic habits and put the imperfect product up on the critique board.
He also talks about how procrastination is a main theme for perfectionists. If we feel we can’t do it perfectly, then we may never get a start.
I like mulling on the topic of perfectionism especially at this time of year, as it is often our over-inflated expectations of ourselves that keep us from actually achieving any new years resolutions we may have set for ourselves. Perhaps the answer isn’t in setting lower expectations, but in understanding that striving is most important, and that we are never really going to fully arrive. It’s good to leave room for unexpected twists and surprises. Maybe the outside world will give feedback that will point things in a new direction, or priorities will shift… Or even doing a little bit is better than doing nothing. After all, we never really ever fulfill our potential, as our potential only grows as we grow.
In Jonathan Fields’ book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear & Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance, he talks a lot about leaning into our doubts and opening up our endeavors to the input of others, sometimes in a very public way. It can create accountability, but also it allows us to lean on the genius of others in reaching for our goals. And of course I’m talking Goals here with a capital G… Starting that book that’s been lurking in the back of your mind, lighting a fire under your business, evolving your painting passion into an entrepreneurial endeavor.
You could set some resolutions that are easy to achieve, low-hanging fruit that will make you feel accomplished, something to keep you inspired to do more. I have a friend whose resolution last year was to wear more suits, and he achieved that one with aplomb. Mine this year is to be more compassionate, especially with myself… A little more esoteric, but one that I am certain I will accomplish, and even moreso with the added focus of making it my resolution. The big Resolutions are ones that I am not so sure I will achieve, if I am to be honest, but that I am dedicated to making progress on. Blogging consistently, sharing more with my social networks, experimenting and helping others as much as possible through the sharing of information and ideas. All of these things have been on my radar some way in the past, and every year I gain more progress, improve my habits, build better and better foundations. I’m even more successful when I overcome my tendency to ferret something away until it feels perfect enough… Which it never does. Learning to live with that artist idiosyncrasy is the best thing I have gained as an adult, because I can more easily fulfill my promise of being more compassionate with myself when I remember it.
So perhaps this year’s ultimate goal for me is to give in to the process and reduce my stranglehold on perfection. After all, in a constantly evolving world — especially the landscape of communication, society and business called the internet — one is best served by leaning into the community and innovating real-time than letting ideas of perfectionism cause one to stagnate and lose relevancy. Feedback is something that is inevitable anyway, and the earlier one receives feedback, the earlier one can change course or reconsider… or the earlier one can come to terms with the fact that they are going to do it their way no matter what. Perfectionism is a moving target. Connection and evolution thrive on communication and the willingness to experiment and put things out there.
And a good dose of compassion can help us along the way as the Road of Resolutions makes its twists and turns throughout 2012. Here’s hoping that yours starts off with a wonderful wind in your sails.