Perfect Can Paralyze You

You feel like it has to be perfect. So, you don't finish. Sometimes you don't even start. You're not going to write down a goal if you don't think you have the time to do it perfectly right now. So, instead of just losing five pounds in the next two months, you decide you'll diet later and so you gain.

Perfect can paralyze you. It can keep you from making progress. It can keep you from starting. And if you don't start, you can't finish.

Aiming for excellence is great. Let's do our best. But let's don't live lives devoid of any accomplishment because perfection was our goal instead of setting a goal and making forward progress.

The cemetery is full of people who had perfect plans. Perfect books that were never written. Perfect movies that were never shot. Perfect lesson plans that were never taught. And all those perfect thoughts died with the person without being done.

It seems to me an admirable goal done pretty well is better than a perfect goal that died and never saw the light of day.

Take this post for example. I've been struggling to write blog posts lately because I thought I had to write 750 words every time I write. I don't.

The last 50 days, I have lots of perfect posts I wrote in my head and never made it out here. I think aiming for a couple of hundred words of well-thought-out ponderings is better than 1,000 words of perfection that were never published.

Are you letting a false dream of perfection become your perfect straight jacket? Can you back off on your personal expectations and actually get something done that is important to you?

Makes perfect sense to me.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Caitlin Misenko January 23, 2019 - 8:57 am

Hi there! I enjoyed reading this blog. I am an educator and this hits home for work life and home life. Balancing the two isn’t so easy. With the new year, I have created a few goals for myself, some dealing with work and others personal. I am a perfectionist, or atleast I am told this quite often. I try to make sure I have completed something 100% before moving on, and if it isn’t quite perfect, I start over. I suppose this might be my competitive attitude that I’ve had since I was a child. Over the past few weeks the world has thrown my life and family some curveballs. I haven’t hit perfection on anything that I have done in the past week. I haven’t had the time to dwell on my performance at work or in my graduate classes due to an immediate surgery my husband had earlier this week. I am making sure that I am working towards my goals, but perhaps I am not meeting my own personal expectations. I might be getting in my 60 minutes of cardio at the gym, but am I really giving 100%? Dinner is cooked and on the table every night, but did I add my own personal flair to the dish? Too often we doubt what we did and correct it. Letting go of perfection is hard, but life is hard, and we need to make it work for ourselves. Doing something well is fine as long as you are able to accept it!

Vicki Davis February 4, 2019 - 9:14 pm

Caitlin, my grandmother often said to me, “sometimes you gotta let the rough end drag” and it sounds like right now is one of those times. You don’t always have the bandwidth to do everything just so. As she would say – if you’re feeding your children, don’t go on a guilt trip that it isn’t some fancy dish. we all have to do the best we can during different seasons of life.

Amy Vujaklija January 23, 2019 - 10:06 am

You make a great point – similar to what Justin Su’a says in his podcast:
There is something liberating about looking at each new day and thinking about how to get just a little better. I have been listening to Joe Ferraro’s podcast One Percent Better and have really been thinking about what it means to improve by small increments instead of “all or nothing.” I’m challenging myself to write – blogs, articles, etc. Letting go of the perfection, I’ve decided to just ship it!

Heather February 5, 2019 - 4:44 pm

I can really relate to this post! Sometimes I don’t do things simply because I am scared or don’t want to fail. I need to remember I will never know if I don’t try, and the worst that can happen is I learn something from a failure. I especially like how you said the cemetery is full of people who had all of these plans and goals they never fulfilled. I want to be a person who just goes for it, even though that doesn’t come naturally for me. I will be a better teacher and person if I do this!


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere
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