New Year’s resolutions are a lost cause as far as I am concerned. I rarely keep up anything I simply “resolve” to do without further thought and planning (which is typically how most of us set resolutions). This year I’ve taken a different approach to goal setting that’s been really successful for me. I identified 12 habits that I am monitoring on a daily basis. As I read in Gretchen Rubin’s excellent book on habits, “Better than Before”, you are far more likely to uphold behaviors that are being monitored closely. Maybe it’s too soon to say but so far it’s been working really well. Much better than a resolution that I am likely to just pronounce and do nothing to deliver on.
One of my habits that I am monitoring is to make an effort to listen to podcasts more often instead of watching mindless TV. There is so much quality content out there in podcasts but there’s always a resistance in me to choose a podcast over TV. Inspired by a method that a friend (Thanks Andrew!) introduced me to called WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan) from Gabriele Oettingen’s book “Rethinking Positive Thinking”, I decided to explore what obstacles hold me back from choosing to listen to a podcast. I realized that when I’m listening to podcasts my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) takes over and I’m forcing myself to listen to each word, constantly rewinding and replaying sections. Lately, I’ve taken this to the next level of ridiculousness by taking notes. (Of course, the nerd in me had to take over this task and render it unbearable through note taking!)
Just as I was thinking about this, a piece of advice from a new friend (Thanks Rob!) appeared out of thin air (If this was the cartoon version, there would be a big thought bubble above my head at this point) – Be a sieve not a sponge. Apparently this concept has its origins in Jewish Rabbinic literature. What a lovely idea! An approach to life and learning that is based not in scarcity and fear (of missing out or something else) but in faith and trust that you will take in exactly as much information as you need to in the present moment. I needed to hear this. It appeals to my deep desire to free myself from perfectionism.
I am a recovering perfectionist and much of my procrastination stems from the fact that I want everything to be “just right” before I can get to a task. Whether that’s my mood, the workspace or something completely unrelated to the task at hand such as the weather. (And this works both ways – “The weather is great! I don’t want to do this” or “The weather sucks! I don’t want to do this”) Intellectually, I understand that I need to uproot the perfectionism but it’s not that easy to internalize and implement. Because perfectionism is insidious and creeps into your mind before you can see how truly stuck you are in it’s monster grip.
Let me illustrate with an example: After I heard Rob’s sage advice, I had an overwhelming desire to make a sign that reminds me everyday to embrace imperfection. As I saw it, the sign would wake me up when I was chasing perfection and practicing active avoidance of my priorities. It would rescue me from being stuck on making decisions and help me just get on with my tasks. I was satisfied with this idea and decided that this sign would go up in my kitchen. Right then, perfectionism paid me a visit and took control. “I should make a sign after I learn hand lettering online. Then I can make a beautiful sign with my brand new Sakura Micron pens and sketch paper!” You would think that I would have caught this thought pattern and flung it out of the window but nope, I was pretty pleased about this idea for a long time until I realized I had been made a fool, again. I made a sign right then with printer paper and a highlighter.
I don’t expect for this sign to work forever. I also don’t expect to make the choice to be imperfect “always” like the sign says. But I am hopeful that for as long as I notice it in my apartment I will remind myself that good enough is better than perfect.