Little Notes: You Will Always Be A Work In Progress
August 31, 2023
I first started writing this post back in November 2021. As you can see, we’re well past that time and yet what I have to say is probably more relevant for me now than it was even then. Since 2020, my life has had so many twists and turns. Some I was eager for and some I dreaded. Some things came unexpectedly but led the way to new experiences and challenges that, ultimately, I benefitted from in ways I couldn’t have imagined before.
I do not know how much time I will have to live this life, but as I live it I want to be intentional in all that I do – at the very least more often than not. And as I continue on this journey, one thing that remains constant is that change is inevitable. Not only the changes that I experience but the changes within myself. To live is to be a work in progress. A work in improvement? But no. Progress isn’t linear and improvement isn’t always necessary. So that’s why I’d rather say a work in progress.
For this to be bearable a few things are needed: patience, grace, empathy, and kindness. These things you give to yourself. I used to lament having to start over or having to course change when it wasn’t my choice but sometimes – oftentimes – the change was for the best. New perspectives gained and experience and understanding deepened.
I’m writing this as I come out of unemployment and as I continue to heal from burnout incurred from years of navigating deeply toxic work environments. The me today isn’t the same as the me that began writing this post back in 2021 nor is she the same as the me from only a few months ago. I continue to grow, challenge, and change. It’s a beautiful thing that should be embraced and not dreaded.
So how do you do it?
1 Reject Perfectionism
Easier said than done, but realizing that perfection is only an ideal not an actuality. I like the concept of optimalism. The work of Angela Duckworth, psychologist and popular science author behind the book Grit The Power of Passion and Perseverance, helped me to articulate this in very helpful ways. If you can acknowledge that there is room for improvement and that often times “done is better than perfect” then you’re on your way to breaking free of the shackles of perfectionism. It will be on going process so give yourself grace. Sometimes we use perfectionism as a shield, but often it does more harm than good.
2 Embrace/Accept Failure
If you can accept failure as part of the journey and that it isn’t a bad seven letter word you’ll go far. You’ll become more resilient meaning you’ll be willing to keep trying and improving. Failure is a requirement and it doesn’t always look like what you think. If success is relative then so too is failure. Charlie Gilkey has some excellent perspectives on embracing and managing failure in his book Start Finishing. I highly recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves stagnant or immobilized in their efforts to pursue and achieve their goals.
3 Stay Ready – Keep Practicing
Check in with yourself regularly and keep your skills up. On days when you just can’t seem to bring yourself to do high level work, practice the foundational things. Learning an instrument? Practice your scales. Starting to market yourself or a product? Practice your elevator pitch. Learning a language? Go over your vocabulary. Keep the skills you’ve worked diligently to develop sharp by engaging in small ways when you feel limited by your schedule or lack the energy And when you are feeling like you can take on more then do that.
4 Leave Room for Grief
It’s okay to mourn the way things could have gone, what you could have achieved if only things went the way you hoped. When you fail, when you pivot, when you must change directions whether it is by choice or circumstance, grief will happen even if you are stepping into a change you wanted. It’s okay to reflect just don’t dwell in that for too long. What’s coming next will need your full attention.
5 Make Time for Play and Exploration
This is how you learn about yourself, how you learn what you like and what you’re capable of, what you dislike, and where you are pulled. Don’t put any requirement on it beyond doing fun things. Indulge in the things that put a smile on your face and if you aren’t sure what those are – then your mission is to try new things so you can discover what they are. Play is critical to a fulfilling life so make sure you make plenty time to do it.
You are not in your final form because there is no such thing. You are a beautiful wonderful mess: a work in progress, and still a work of art.