Prioritizing Practice Over Perfection

Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

This is day five of 100 in my daily writing challenge, where I endeavour to write one article per day. Throughout the challenge, I’ll be sharing my experiences of becoming a digital nomad and things I’ve learned along the way. Everyone says I’m “living the dream” — but is it? I’ll let you be the judge.


You may have noticed that I didn’t write an article yesterday. Or maybe you didn’t. (Is anyone out there? Give me a sign if you’re reading this!) Either way, there was no post yesterday (gasp) and I feel damn good about it.

Sure, the point of this challenge is to write one article every day for 100 days, but if I miss one day, does that make the whole challenge a fail? A few months ago I would have been pretty disappointed in myself for missing one day. I would have been ashamed and frustrated at my failure — the voice in my head, my inner perfectionist, would come up with negative self talk like “how hard is it to write one article?” and “a more motivated person could do it”.

It’s a marathon not a sprint

One hundred days of writing is a maaaraaathon. And, as with literally anything I try to attempt ever, of course I came out of the gate guns blaring — I was at my desk by 8:30am every day, either writing my post or doing research for my side-hustle-du-jour and generally working until 11pm daily. This was after two hectic weeks where I had worked through both weekends, which meant that by day four of the challenge I was already mentally burnt out. It showed — my third article was an ill-conceived listicle (ugh); not my finest showing.

So yesterday my burnt-out-self enjoyed a late dinner with a glass of wine, and by 9pm I was on my second episode of ‘Mind of a Chef’ and my second glass of Alicante Bouché. It was glorious. But every so often, the blog post would creep into my thoughts, and I could hear my inner perfectionist chiding me — “you’ll be a better person if you write the blog post”.

Well, I’m sorry inner perfectionist, but you’re wrong! Thankfully, my inner life coach stepped in and told my inner perfectionist to STFU. Sure, I could have suffered through the post and put out another shitty article, but what good does that do me or anyone reading this? What I really needed that night was to turn my brain off and relax, and I’m so glad I did.

Becoming vs Being

The point of this challenge is to become a better writer, not to be the perfect writer all the time. It’s a subtle but important difference: one is fluid, the other is fixed. Perfection is a constant state of being that I used to strive for; something I could attain if I continuously made optimal decisions — every meal, every interaction, every social media post, every yoga pose or every workout (hell — I even gave Child’s Pose my best shot, all the time). I thought I could be the best version of myself if I just constantly made the perfect, most optimal decisions all the time.

Doesn’t that sound exhausting to you!? And yet it’s something many of us do, consciously or not. I’m my race to perfection (and it was always a race — I needed results ASAP) I ended up feeling worse about myself for not achieving my goals (which were always ludicrously ambitious — thanks social media). I’m not trying to discourage setting ambitious goals — the moments when you accomplish something you didn’t want to or think you could do will feel amazing, and you should absolutely strive for and celebrate those things. But in those moments where you don’t achieve a goal or make the “right” decision, remember that it’s not about the destination. Like this hundred day writing challenge, life is a marathon. The goal is to become better over time, not to be perfect right this second, or tomorrow, or ever.

Pass the mic to your inner life coach

In the past few weeks, I’ve made an effort to stop being so hard on myself for not making the “perfect” decision. I’ve started listening to what I really want and need to be happy, even if that means indulging in the occasional loaf of sourdough from Gleba or croissants from Baguette et Cornets (my kryptonite). Well, okay – these aren’t actually new behaviours, but the difference is my reaction. I’ve started shifting my internal self talk to be supportive of the choices I make. It’s been a process, and it will continue to be. There are moments when I’ve taken full liberty with my “wants” and have perhaps neglected my “needs” — but the key is to embrace those decisions and not beat yourself up over it.

The result of starting to embrace these decisions, regardless of what they are, is feeling truly comfortable with my imperfect self. As such, I feel more motivated to start practicing things I used to be afraid of failing at — whether it’s writing, running, going out and meeting new people — because I’ve given myself the license to do so in a way that is, and will continue to be, just practice: a neverending, long term, pursuit of being happier or better, without any self imposed ideals or expectations of perfection.

I’m curious if anyone has any thoughts on this — especially if you disagree, or feel that I’m advocating for taking the easy way out. Part of me wonders that too — am I being too laissez faire? I’ve always valued ambition and setting difficult goals, but what I hope is clear, is that the way we value and treat ourselves shouldn’t be relative to the outcome of our ambitions.

Thanks for reading, I hope you found it interesting. The wheels are already turning for another article today, so I’m going to try!

Heather


p.s. I posted this at 1am last night but decided to come back fresh this morning to make some edits. This was not in the spirit of perfection, but in the spirit of truly putting my best foot forward. I retained most of the original article, but added the 7th + 9th last paragraph to really bring things home. I’m happy with the result — hope you enjoyed reading!