Permission To Fail

I have tended toward perfectionism for most of my life. I’m the kind of person who can feel a crazy need have everything just right and perfect before I consider something to be done. In school, this worked to my advantage. It made getting good grades and work in on time very easy. It meant that I got good grades and wrote good papers. But now that I’m not in that environment, perfectionism hasn’t been working for me very well.

Life outside of a structured school environment is very different. No externally imposed structure. No syllabus telling me what to do and when to do it. No grading system for the work I do to know if I did well enough or not. Life is messy. Life is dynamic. It’s been hard for me to accept this at times. But Zig Ziglar once said something that resonated with me:

“Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly until you can do it well.”

This is the exact opposite of my typical thought pattern. My natural instinct is to think that if I cannot do something very well then I should just not do it at all. Or, if I can’t do it perfectly then what’s the point?  I’m starting to realize that some things really are worth doing poorly in order to be able to do them well later. Like practice. What I’m realizing is that my perfectionist attitude is just another form of procrastination. Just another excuse to put something off until later. This is significant to me because I hate procrastination. I almost always try to do things as soon as possible so I don’t have think about them anymore. How weird is it that I was doing something that I hated without even knowing it?

For me, all this goes into me learning to give myself permission to fail. This is hard. I’m trying to allow myself to do something imperfectly (but still acceptable) until I can do it better. Bills don’t just hang out until I find out how to do my job “perfectly.” I can’t set my wife aside until I become the “perfect” husband. I can still be an imperfect person and make positive impacts in my daily life. Sometimes you just have to do it.

Do the right thing. Do your best. Let people know you care. It won’t be perfect at first. Probably never will be. Give yourself the permission to fail and you will give yourself the permission to try. I’m trying my best and I can see that it’s not perfect. Somehow, I don’t feel like a failure.

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