A LITTLE BIT AND OFTEN: Focusing on Progress rather than Perfection - Day 3 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH
From Friday 19th January, everyday for 40 days, I will be sharing something each day that has either (1) changed my way of thinking or perspective, (2) helped me get through a challenging period of transition, change or growth, or (3) changed my life for the better. I've called it '40 Days of Growth'. I'd love it if you followed along with me on this journey - contributing what has also helped you to learn, grow and change. And, if I can support you on your own learning journey, please do let me know 😃
Day 3 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH - A LITTLE BIT AND OFTEN: FOCUSING ON PROGRESS RATHER THAN PERFECTION
It's often said that 'life is a journey' and that it's important to enjoy the journey along the way to the destination. This is quite different to numerous messages that our consumerist and materialistic Western society feeds us on the sides of buildings or before we watch a YouTube video. Think about it: most marketing and advertisements are based on the premise that something is missing in your life but, oh, hey, buy this product, meet this person, have this experience, and THEN you'll be happy! Does any of this resonate? These common messages focus on giving us the idea that we're missing something, that we're lacking something... that we're not enough... Phew! It's a hard hitting concept. In this blog post I'll share an idea that has allowed me to feel satisfied with where I'm at rather than constantly thinking of myself as a 'not-good-enough-project'. If it resonates with you I'd love to hear from you in the comments below :)
Focusing on progress and what I'm learning
One of my biggest learnings over the last few years has been about how to be happier in the day-to-day, how to enjoy and be more accepting of the present moment and on focusing on WHAT I'M LEARNING and my PROGRESS rather than 'perfection'. Focusing on progress and celebrating the little wins allows me to enjoy what I'm doing more. I'm more in the present moment and more focused on the task at hand rather than getting caught up in worries of how it looks to other people or comparing myself to other people.
'A little bit and often'
A key idea here comes from the exuberant and talented Tony Henderson-Newport (who brought the Pop-Up Business School concept from the UK to New Zealand - thanks Tony!!) The idea is to focus on doing 'a little bit and often'. I cannot emphasise how important this idea has been to doing regular blogging, taking massive leaps outside my comfort zone to teaching mindfulness classes and sharing what I've learned over the last few years with mentees and coaching clients. By doing 'a little bit and often' I get closer to my long-term dreams, feel like I'm making progress over the weeks and months and feel better about how I'm contributing on a day-to-day basis.
Personally, for years (not kidding) I was stuck in a place of fear with my writing and 'putting myself out there' to do the work I really wanted to do. I would get 75% of the way through a blog post and then not publish it. I even had a rush of cold sweat pushing the 'publish' button for the first time on a LinkedIn blog I did about my first year as a working graduate and then for my first Jen Y Insights blog last year. Worries of: this isn't what I want it to look like... it's not perfect... it's probably not as good as [x person]'s content etc. Part of the being paralysed by fear came from wanting things to be perfect right from the very beginning. It was like I expected to be able to ride a bike from the first time of getting on it, skipping having training wheels and everything! Not realistic at all, right? Authors like Elizabeth Gilbert (author of best-selling 'Eat, Pray, Love') were writing regularly for 10, sometimes even 20 years before their creative work was recognised and celebrated! And, even once it was published, they kept on working. They were consistent in their production and knew that the more they did, the better their craft would become.
How do you focus on progress rather than perfection?
So, how can you focus on progress rather than perfection? (i.e. how do you move from a place of fear and 'stuckness' to motion and action) Great question! Here are a few ideas to play with:
- All experts started as beginners: award-winning athletes, artists and Chief Executives all started from somewhere.
- Talent is only part of the equation. Consistent, dedicated practice is a key part of the equation. I guarantee that David Beckham didn't just become an amazing soccer player without practicing and working on his skill set..
- One thing I found helpful during my first job was, once a month or more, to sit down with my journal and reflect on all that I had been learning during the last month. I could then look back over the year and see my progress and celebrate it. Even little things like learning how to insert a hyperlink in an email or how to CC someone in - all these little things were worth celebrating as they were new learning.
- You're the only one who can do you own push-ups (this idea comes from Jack Canfield's The Success Principles). Think about this....
- A lot of people think that motivation has to come before action. For example, I wanted to write a book or go for a run but I wasn't feeling motivated/it was raining outside etc. One quote that has stuck out for me over the last few years is "what does feeling like it have to do with anything?" Motivation often comes when we start doing the action and chunk it down into goals that are so small we're guaranteed to achieve them - e.g. one press-up, running to the next power pole, writing 100 words etc. Action builds momentum and motivation comes from that momentum! This is one of the main things I've learned from doing 40 day challenges - motivation comes from the momentum of doing something and improving at it.
- For the visually-inclined (including myself) - keeping a visual record of your progress can be incredibly helpful. For example, in 2014 when I was training to get fit for Outward Bound I would record on my wall planner each day the times I got for running 3km, doing 2km on the rowing machine, what weights I was pressing etc. During this time period, motivation would come when I would notice that I was beating my times the more I practiced. When I would see the progress I became even more motivated to keep doing it and to keep improving my times. Part of this continued motivation came from SEEING the progress and from KNOWING that progress came from consistently doing the work and measuring the progress.
A few questions for you
So, my questions are: are you doing the work focusing on an end goal that you have no control over? Or, are you focusing on the work and the craft - getting a little better slowly but surely? Importantly, for today, how can you implement 'a little bit and often'?