Setting the Tone
Beginning a new year, lots of people want to take steps toward their ideal selves. I am no different, and it is hard not to view the turning of the calendar as an opportunity to start fresh. But this year, I’m trying something a little different. I want to pick one single thing to rally around this year, one single goal that the rest of my goals hinge upon. Like a campaign slogan, I want it to be my battle cry as I take on the new year. Some people choose only a word, but I’ve selected a short phrase instead: Done Not Perfect.
Perfectionism Is A Sickness
All my life, I’ve been pretty good at whatever I’ve tried. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back. In fact, it’s been something of an obstacle in my adult years. For the longest time, I didn’t know how to fail. As a kid, I never struggled with art, social relationships, and most classes came easy to me (math & science were the exceptions).
As a young adult, I had to deal with the reality that my childhood was spent as a big fish in a little pond. Growing up in a small town in Oklahoma gave me a rather narrow representation of the world and my place in it. When I moved to a larger city and became a responsible adult, I felt an immense pressure to perform and be better than everyone else. This led to subtle anxiety that still affects me to this day.
The anxiety I speak of is the main cause of my worst enemy: procrastination. There are many root causes of procrastination, but essentially it boils down to fear. Fear of not being good enough, being laughed at, or – worst of all – ignored. For years I disguised this fear as perfectionism. I would avoid doing anything at all unless I knew I’d be good at it. Naturally, this meant I didn’t try many new things. If I did venture out into new territory, I would rarely tell anyone. I would labor in secret until I felt I had reached something superb.
While this problem pervaded through many areas of my life, my art took the biggest hit. In school, I always had a teacher telling me what to draw or paint. As an adult and no instructions, I collapsed under the pressure. I certainly had enough skills to create art, but I had no direction and I didn’t know where to begin. What if it’s awful? What if I can’t compete? My art hobby came to a screeching halt and stayed that way for several years.
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Done Not Perfect
As we begin this year, I want to formally announce that Done Not Perfect and I are in a serious relationship, and on a mission to overcome procrastination. I want to incorporate it into everything I do. Every time I feel fearful about looking foolish or being inadequate, I want to close my eyes and see these three words etched onto the back of my eyelids.
This little phrase has helped me tackle some major insecurities already. Besides helping me mar the first page of a brand new Leuchtturm (a prospect that used to strike fear into my heart), I also have begun drawing more. No major paintings have been created thus far, but I have been playing around in my sketchbook with no specific purpose. I’ve been allowing myself to make mistakes and not erase them. Isn’t that crazy?
I even managed to hit a huge milestone and lay down paint in a handmade watercolor sketchbook. I’ve held onto this beauty for more than six years, terrified of making it imperfect. Now I’ve ruined the first page with paint tests and samples, and I feel like I’m walking on air.
Find Your Inspiration
No matter where you find yourself in the calendar, find something that inspires you and hold onto it. It can be a word, phrase, or something more lengthy. Whatever you use, make sure that it’s simple, memorable, and that it resonates deep within you.
Once you have your word or phrase selected, make sure you put it somewhere you can see it! I’m going to letter Done Not Perfect and slap it over my desk. That way it can stare me down when I’m feeling procrastination creeping over me.
If you don’t set new year’s resolutions, that’s totally fine! Resolutions aren’t necessary to have a great year full of growth. But you should still set goals and strive to be better each and every day. There’s always something to do, learn, or lose in the quest of becoming your ideal self. I’m confident that this year is going to be the year of getting stuff done — perfection be damned.