Updated: Mar 24, 2021
Practice makes progress – not perfection
How much “perfection” is there really in the world? I’ve recently watched The Queen’s Gambit (I know, I’m a little behind the times) and noted that flaws and potential failures were found after impressive wins. If something isn’t “perfect” does it mean it’s a failure or somehow not good enough?
Perfection in professionals
What are you interested in? It might be a sport, music, reading, politics, cookery, art, engineering – anything really. Now think of someone at the top of those areas. Are they perfect? Really truly, always 100%, never go wrong, perfect? In any sports victory, were there not also missed opportunities to score more, go faster or further, do that little bit better? And in order to stay at the top, don’t the people who came to mind keep practicing to make more progress? And even if one person thinks something is perfect, does everyone? It fascinates me when I watch cookery competitions to see the vastly different opinions on the same dish.
What counts as success?
So if professionals, the best of the best, aren’t perfect, how are we mere mortals going to be? And if we are not perfect, does that mean that we are a failure? Absolutely not. The question is, what level is good enough for you? As a percentage, what counts as success for you? As a guide, in UK A Level exams an A is awarded for 80%+, a B is 70-79%, a C is 60-69% and so on. What grade would you aim for and count as a success in the various aspects of your life?
I like to do crafts – knitting, crochet and cross stitch mostly. My mother taught me the basic skills of knitting and crochet and I learnt to cross stitch from written instructions. When I am working on a project it is always from a pattern or a chart – a detailed guide of what to do. And even then, following precise written directions, I go wrong at times. The choice I have when I notice it is to undo my work or live with the result. I judge the overall impact and nine times out of ten I’ll leave it as it is and be happy with say, an 80% result and the rest of world will probably never notice the rest.
What happens when there is no manual?
In the example of many hobbies, craft, sports etc we can be taught the basic skills and given a specific set of instructions for an individual undertaking. What about the situations where we’re not taught the skills, and not given a manual? i.e. a huge number of the things that make up life. Sure, we may be able to use some of our skills, we may be given some information about what to expect and how to deal with things, there might be books and videos available about the general subject, but the human element means that every situation is different and we need to create our own “manual”, find our way. And in those cases, what is the measurement of success?
Learning as you go along
When you are develping as you go along, making progress each day, learning from experiences, then that, to me, is success. When our lives were turned upside down because of my partner's mental health, it took a while to realise that I couldn’t be the “perfect” partner because there is no such thing. People gave advice and suggestions, some of which worked and some of which didn’t; I learnt from the good and the bad and slowly accepted that practice was making progress. What have you learnt from a recent experience that will help you going forward?
Why this is important for someone who is supporting a partner with mental health challenges
When things happen in life, especially unplanned ones like a partner suddenly struggling with mental health, it’s natural to want to “perfect” in how you respond and what you do, and on the flip side to beat yourself up for not reaching the unobtainable standard. Be kind to yourself. Recognise the progress you’re making and the successes that you have achieved.
When my other half was signed off work with stress, my life was turned upside down too. These blog posts are based on the things that helped me, the lessons I learnt the hard way and what I realise with the benefit of hindsight would have helped. I’ve collected some of the other key learning points and tips and made these available to download at https://www.fionagillies.co.uk/pivot-pointers.