I have a New Year’s resolution.
As January rolls forward and 2008 steadily increases its hold on our calendars, I have – like so many others – decided to take the beginning of yet another revolution around the Sun as an opportunity to make a (hopefully) lasting change in my life. This will be the year, I say, fully aware of the cliché; this year will be different, I predict, knowing as I do so that I’m echoing the thoughts of countless other individuals bent on a “fresh start.” This year, we all chirp in unison, this year we will be different.
And yet, here I have to go somewhat out of tune. Though I do want to be “different,” I’m not necessarily resolving to complete all my personal projects, work out more regularly, or pay off debts. Nor have I made up my mind to eat more healthily, get more sleep, or reduce stress. In fact, I’ve tried to not really make any definitive determinations about these or any of a myriad of other vague-but-worthwhile-sounding goals that probably resonate with most of the people out there.
Don’t get me wrong: these goals are all ones that I would very much like to achieve, even all this year if possible, at least partially. The thing is, though, these kinds of goals are all about being “better” in some way. And quite honestly, as a New Year’s resolution, I don’t think that will help me all that much.
So I’ve got another idea. Instead of resolving to be better in some area of my life, I resolve to completely forget about being better and to just go forward without hesitation.
I won’t worry – as I’ve so often tended to in the past – about whether or not I’m doing the best that can be done; I’ll just strive to do the best that I can do. I likewise won’t ever feel like I have to do something flawlessly the first time around; I’ll remind myself that pretty much everyone can find something they don’t like about themselves or their own work and I’ll accept that improvements usually can be and even have to be made, and I’ll be thankful for any chance to do so.
I won’t focus on what I don’t know, but instead will focus on what I do know, and I’ll rejoice in the fact that there’s so much more to learn; I similarly won’t think that I can’t do something until I know “enough” about a particular subject. I mean, sure, there are plenty of times when you can’t just get up and go, when you have to know something about what you’re doing before you can begin, but more often than not the best way to get that knowledge is to just brace yourself and dive in. I won’t be afraid to take my own advice and do the same, figurative mask and snorkel at the ready.
Finally, I definitely won’t feel like I have to do everything all at once. As many goals and dreams and plans as I might have, I’ll take things one at a time, and once and for all I’ll recognize that I can’t do anything until I start something; doing everything might be unrealistic but that’s no reason not to try.
And actually, in that last little independent clause we have in a nutshell the crux of my rather long and perhaps somewhat convoluted post. I am and have always been a perfectionist. When I do things, I want to do things well. Really well. But the perfectionist’s dilemma – my dilemma, too much of the time – is that the oft-quoted axiom that “practice makes perfect” is, actually, a lie.
“Perfection” is impossible, and if you take perfectionism too far, you’ll take that inescapable impossibility too much to heart and either never start something – because, hey, it (and/or you) will never be perfect, why bother? – or you’ll start but then not follow through. This can lead to ambitious projects being left on the backburner until blackened to a crisp and other nice-but-lofty goals left by the wayside and forgotten.
But no longer. Striving for perfection is, if you’ll pardon my language, damned counterproductive, and I want no part in it. This year, I will strive instead to just do, without the worry.
This year, I resolve to be imperfect.