A friend of mine sent her 4 year old son for his first day of school. When she picked him up, she asked him how the day had been. “It’s not right, Mummy,” he replied. “They haven’t taught me to read yet!”
It’s a funny story. We laugh because my friend’s child had unreasonably high expectations, both of the teacher and of themselves. But how often are we guilty of just this sort of impatience, this brand of unwillingness to make allowances for ourselves and others?
I subscribe to the newsletter produced by Michael Bungay Stanier, productivity expert and author of Do More Great Work. He told the story this month of how he (briefly) considered writing the year off as a failure after he fell behind schedule with his plans of writing four books this year.
Often my students come for their lessons and complain bitterly about how the thing they most want to improve in themselves hasn’t shifted, or hasn’t shifted fast enough. They wonder why they are so stuck. I look at them and marvel at how fast they are changing.
Wondering why we aren’t fixed yet / finished yet / better yet is really a potent form of cognitive distortion. We are demanding of ourselves perfection, and becoming impatient when we fall short of the mark.
There are two important things to remember about creativity and change.
1. It isn’t a linear, constant progression.
Oddly, most of us seem to expect our progress to be a constant, steady movement forwards over time. This is a fallacy. Progress in the real world so often happens in fits and starts, giant leaps punctuated by long gaps of frustration.
First of all, we are human beings with lives and families and commitments. There are so many external variables that could go awry.
Second, because we are human, sometimes we get ourselves stuck. FM Alexander likens us to a man standing at a crossroads. We’ve tried one road and know that it doesn’t lead to where we want to go. But sometimes we would rather try that road again and again rather than take the other road. Or as AT teacher Frank Pierce Jones put it, “changes take place when you are ready for them and can permit them to happen.”
2. Success is guaranteed.
Yes, you read that correctly! This is what Alexander wrote:
Where the “means-whereby” are right for the purpose, desired ends will come. They are inevitable. Why then be concerned as to the manner and speed of their coming? We should reserve all thought, energy and concern for the means whereby we may command the manner of their coming.”
If we are following a good process, if we are following it faithfullyand with a sense of direction and control, we are guaranteed to have a positive outcome. Eventually.
So what is your relationship with perfection? Are you willing to allow yourself the time you need to do the process well, and leave the results to come when they are ready?
Image by Federico Stevanin from FreeDigitalPhotos.net