Let's Try to Talk About Perfection
Chances are, if you are using a journal like the OAK Journal, you are on a journey of some sort to achieve something. You are following a structured path to achieve three well-thought-out goals in the next ninety days. Ultimately these goals will somehow, in some way, contribute to your Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal (BHAG.) As someone who focuses on achievement, does perfectionism ever trip you up? Have you ever thought that maybe your goals aren’t the right goals to focus on? Is your BHAG really your BHAG? Or have you skipped writing goals altogether because you can’t think of something to write? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then congratulations, you have found your good friend perfectionism. Even the most thought-out tool to guide you through a process can’t rid you of perfectionist tendencies. Sometimes adherence to the tool itself can bring it out. How many of you have felt shame for missing a day writing in the journal? Has that shame led to missing another day? That shame you feel is your perfectionist friend saying hi.
Perfectionism is a tricky friend because it shows up in ways you never expect. Typically we think of a perfectionist as someone who needs everything orderly and within their control. That person expects nothing but the best from themselves and those around them. It is a charter that we create from an extreme version of perfectionism. Then we can separate ourselves from that image. Of course, we are not that controlling; we can roll over some bumps in the road. We are not perfectionists; well, at least we are not the perfect perfectionist.
Perfectionism is a state of being where one seeks control over the ability to try, progress, and learn. It reminded me of when my kids were very young, and I would control them when crossing a busy street. I would force them to look both ways (twice) at all times to ensure no cars were coming. At that moment, the stakes were high, so I did everything I could to protect them from harm. That makes sense, but my perfectionist friend would visit at times when the stakes were not as high, and yet I excepted the same control over my kids. When they were playing in the park, I would offer them the same rigidity The problem was that the righty was misplaced. In the park, lessons were learned without the same stakes. They could fail more gracefully. Instead, I was the helicopter parent preventing any and all harm while forgetting that playing in the park was not the same as crossing a busy street.
At OAK, we value trying over perfection. Maybe your developmental goal for the next 90 days isn’t just right. Quick tip, write in pencil instead of a pen. Write it out, try it out and see if it fits. Then change it if it doesn’t work. The important thing is that you learn throughout the process. If you treat your goal the same as your children crossing a busy street, then there isn’t much room to grow.