Progress Over Perfection

When I was in 6th grade, I first realized I was a perfectionist. I’ve told this story before, but basically I spent all night working on a project I had been planning for weeks. My first fault was leaving it until the last minute, as a tried and true perfectionist. But then it also came down to putting pictures on a poster board, and I managed to stay up until three in the morning to do so.

“Progress over perfection.”

A saying I manage to quote almost weekly, yet still frustrate myself at my inability to actually grasp it and follow through.

In this instant gratification age of social media, I watch friends spend HOURS editing their photos for their social media profiles, or weeks on resumes and job applications that probably could have been done in one single day.

It’s so easy to work and work, edit and proofread, adjust and re-write, filter, and edit again. But at the end of the day, the chance that changing that little detail will affect the final outcome is small.

Stop killing yourself over the incessant obsession with making everything perfect, and instead, like many things in life, start following your gut instinct more. Too often we second guess our actions, thoughts, and work results, but this is one are where we are also most critical of ourselves.

In thinking, “progress over perfection,” in your projects, hobbies, and work, you allow yourself grace. You are your own worst critic, so stop being so hard on yourself.

PROGRESS means get out there and make stuff! Do something! Produce content! Create whatever it is that’s been simply an idea for far too long. Instead of doubting your ability to create, allow yourself to strive for progress in everything you do. As a certain lightbulb inventor said, “”I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

In 2014, quitting my full-time, well-paying job with incredible co-workers, solid growth opportunities, and a killer location in the growing hub of South Lake Union, to move to a developing country and volunteer for a non-profit was one of the first times I thought my “perfectionism” dramatically changed my life.

In my mind, I wasn’t ready to settle down, no matter how incredible the job was. So I needed to keep looking. After talking with so many of my peers who are currently miserable in their day jobs, I realize I had it pretty dang good! But I knew it wasn’t for me, at least at that time in my life, and I needed to go find the missing link, or fulfill a lifelong dream, or just do something MORE before “real life” began.

But I think what all of this comes down to wasn’t necessarily my search for “perfect.” Yes, everyone has it. That desire to follow our dreams, as instilled by our parents who wanted to give us the world. Our curiosity for the world outside our own, whether that’s across the world or across town. But when it comes down to it, it was more of a simple move towards something else, not necessarily “the perfect job.” My something else at the time happened to be nearly 4,000 miles away.

Semuc Champey, Guatemala. April 2014.

When it came down to it, I realized that I simply wasn’t living a fulfilling life. Sure, I had a great job, but my friend group was severely lacking, I had no me-time while living at home, and I wasn’t out adventuring or doing things differently. I was stuck in a rut, and unsure of how to get out. But I knew something big needed to happen to change that.

For some, they might spend their life with this ‘reach for the sky’ mentality, and that will work for them. As for me, I’ve grown up and just become much more aware of the balance I need to maintain in my life. Whether it’s when I am searching for the “dream job,” or dreaming about traveling the world again. I have to bring myself back into reality and recognize that if I do want to travel the world and explore new places, I will have to sacrifice a lot.

I don’t think your dream job is impossible. I think it’s completely realistic these days to want something more than your average job, and do everything you can to attain that. But I do think it’s all about finding balance in utilizing your skillset and combining that with wanting to accomplish your wildest dreams.

I have yet to attain either, and maybe I’m still a little high in the clouds for my own good. But I also have no clue if that means I am going to fail miserably or succeed wonderfully. All I know is I need to remain balanced while in pursuit of my dreams.

When I dove into this particular topic over 2 years ago, in thinking how my life had changed since quitting my job, it’s amazing how much has happened and how different my view of my life now is. Instead of the pursuit of perfection, I’m back at “progress over perfection.” I’m not going to find that perfect life right away, but it’s a matter of taking steps to life a fulfilled life, and ensure that my priorities are in order, and I’m focusing on what matters.

A great start for me was taking the 9 Environments test, which assesses your life in relation to the “environments” that make up your life , scores them, and then has you place them in priority to show what is truly important to you. If something is going wrong in one area, it allows you to step back and realize how the problem is affecting your other, often more important, areas and really get to the root of the problem. It put life in perspective for me, helped me realize the things causing stress in the my life and in turn, what I wanted to focus more of my energy on.

Eventually the concept of progress over perfection began to take on a new light. It doesn’t simply relate to the progress on a project, but progress in your own life, the bigger picture stuff. Progress towards a better life can mean finding a new job, a new place to live, new friends to surround yourself, new hobbies, the list goes on! Perfection is not attainable, so why stress yourself out trying to attain it.

“Inch by inch, the whole thing’s a cinch.”

Baby steps my friends. You won’t attain perfection, let alone a fabulous life, if you try to do it all at once. Don’t be that sixth grader up ‘til 3 in the morning, or a grown-a** adult slaving away with no light at the end of the tunnel. Realize when it’s time to make a change, towards progress.

Give yourself a life audit. See what things are going wrong or causing you stress, put your priorities in order, and start working towards the life you choose, and you’ll be closer to that “perfect” life for you, whatever that means.

At this point, I’m only 26 years old, with a whole life ahead of me. And as everyone keeps telling me, I’ve got plenty of time to figure it out. Plenty of time to make mistakes, change jobs, meet new people, find new skills and hobbies, change industries, and more than likely change locations a few times in the process.

So, perfectionist? Nope.

I’m just curious. And way too stubborn to settle for mediocre.


Mackenzie

www.mackenziejill.com | www.downpause.com

Tweeting her: @macweber | Instagramming here: @macweber