2024 June 18 Expect the best, not perfection

Jun 18, 2024

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me tonight to talk about banishing imperfections as an expectation in your life. If you like what you hear tonight, please leave a like, subscribe, tell your friends, or leave a message.


Thanks for joining me tonight. We're going to be talking about how to keep moving forward when all the momentum seems to be lost. With all the increased communications in our lives, especially now with the ease of touching up photos and essentially photoshopping our entire lives, it seems many of us have this tendency to look at life in a binary way. Either it's perfect or it's a failure—which of course isn't the case, but we get conditioned to looking at it like that, in that sort of sense. Many people take even the extraordinary things for granted.


Either it's just fantastic, it's perfect, or it's a bust. We see this a lot, this binary filtering of life—and not only is it not healthy, it's not realistic. It seems like learning to find the things that are useful and helpful and wonderful in pretty much any situation is becoming a bit of a lost art.


Not everything has to be perfect, but just simply acknowledging that everything isn't horrible because one thing isn't perfect is a big step forward. In a hypothetical life situation, where everyone else's life seems perfect, a good part of managing our own expectations is learning to appreciate improvement instead of perfection.


One of the areas this hits hardest is when you're trying to learn a new skill. You're trying to do something different in your life. In those cases, often we have this vision of ourselves doing something new perfectly well—we're just experts at it—everybody's impressed, and here we are humbly accepting everybody's compliments and appreciation.


Well, the reality is that when we start trying to do something for real, we quickly find out that what we imagine that we want to do and actually doing it are very different things. Although, there are a number of studies that show envisioning the desired outcome in great detail, including all the failures and how you would correct them, that actually considerably speeds up and improves learning for a new skill. Envisioning actually does help, but your vision has to be realistic. If you just say it's going to be perfect, that's not a good vision to start with. 


Back to the new skill acquisition—we're finally at the level of a barely passable beginner. We want to show off how far we've come. Let's say we're going to learn to play guitar. We give a little concert to a couple of friends. Oftentimes when we try and share something like that, we get a bunch of sarcastic or critical replies.


But what's really going on here? This is something that can stop you dead in your tracks, because here you're hoping somebody's going to give you some encouragement. Instead you get unfounded criticism by those who won't even try something. They feel threatened by your courage to go and try something new, and even more, to share it publicly. 


How do you keep yourself motivated? How do you keep moving past these feelings of failure? One of the best ways to do it is to start with SMART goals. Remember, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable / actionable, and relevant—they have reach (they're stretch goals), and they're time based.


They're specific. Instead of saying I'm going to learn guitar and how to play a hundred songs. Choose something more specific and manageable. I'm going to learn how to play two chords correctly. Very specific. It's measurable. You said how many chords you're going to learn. There are two chords, and so the next step could be, I'm going to learn two chords and be able to switch between them.  It's achievable. 


If you say, I'm going to learn to play so good I'm going to fill one of the larger baseball stadiums by next month, and you've never played before? It's unlikely to be achievable. But if you pick an achievable goal,  then that's something you can really work on.


It has to be relevant. You're trying to learn a guitar. Don't add, I'm going to learn how to play the trombone.  It's fine. That's a different goal.  It has to be a reach goal, though, because if it's too easy, then your brain doesn't take it seriously. They need to be time based. In other words, they have a deadline. 


Now that you have some good goals defined, you're ready to start making some real progress on things. First off, it's important to acknowledge and reward every single success. It shows your brain that even doing the little things correctly is important to you, and you're happy about that. When your brain gets used to that, you get the whole dopamine thing going on.


Your brain gets used to that. It's going to understand that little successes count, too. Give yourself a reward. It can be little, but it has to be a reward. Because if you ignore the little successes, your brain will become focused only on creating and achieving the big successes. The reality is that most big successes are built upon a foundation of many little successes. If you don't celebrate the little successes, they'll become unimportant, and it'll be very difficult to reach any of the big successes. Celebrate the little ones. Be happy with them. Even a mini celebration will help your brain get you to all the big successes that you want. 


You won't always have successes. You'll have real genuine failures. How do you recover from those? This is perhaps the most important point of learning and trying to expand yourself. Failure is not an end, but it's rather the beginning of learning and making progress. Learn from your failures. Don't be beaten down by them. Failure is not the end, it's just the start—the beginning of learning and making progress. There's only one way to really guarantee failure, and that's by not even trying to start. Giving up is just not trying to start again. When something doesn't go right, think about it—see what can be changed, make the changes, and try again.


Take your failure and turn it into a learning experience to move ahead. Most successful results are a result of many little failures before the big success has happened. Sometimes you hear this whole stepwise progress (or leveling up to the next level) staircase approach to things. That's really true. You try things. It doesn't happen quite like you want. Finally, it clicks,  and then you have what appears to be a sudden large success, when it's really built upon a whole bunch of little small successes that then started to work together and got you to the next level that you wanted. Keep track of your progress. Look at how much you've improved. Celebrate your improvement. Get other people to celebrate with you.  


It's funny. Where I live, there was a teenager who lived about a half mile from me. I could hear him practice pretty well. He wanted to be a drummer in the worst way. He was not especially good when he started. He would play music really loud. When he started at first, he didn't even have a headset.


We could hear the song. We could hear him drumming. He barely has the beat, and he certainly doesn't have the drumming to go with it. But, more power to him. That went on for many months. He played pretty much every night. About 6-8 months later, I was talking to another neighbor who lived in the other direction.


He mentioned that the kid had gotten pretty good. He just stuck with it. His family probably teased him. I'm sure his brothers teased him. But he's improved. Hopefully he focuses on that. It helps you to move ahead one small success at a time.


I heard a lot of people say, Yeah, I heard him. I didn't realize he was such a good drummer. I want to say, He wasn't such a good drummer, but now he's a good drummer.  So never give up on yourself, and realize that failures are really life's best lessons to help you move forward.


Don't think of them as failures, think of them as lessons. You know, be cautious about believing other people's criticisms. Unless it's constructive criticism, they might just be covering up for their jealousy or their lack of confidence. You're putting yourself out there, and that takes a lot of courage.


That's it for the evening. Be pleased with yourself, be willing to take that next step in progress, and forget about perfection. Perfection may come, but it may not. Your goal should always be to become the best that you want to be. Your homework (always optional) is to think about things that you've tried, or consider trying, but then either gave up on immediately or talked yourself out of even trying to start.


Think about the reasons that you gave yourself—and be honest. Were they really valid, or was it just protecting yourself from failure? Extra points if now you imagine starting all over again, but this time with the attitude that you don't care if you fail—or even better, the only possible outcome is that you'll succeed. Now what would you do?  Do you have that in mind? Go take that first step, and work on your reimagined SMART goals. Start making some progress on things that really matter to you. 


That's it for the night. As always, remember the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel/Palestine.You can find links to donate to Ukraine at UKR7.com. United24 is another way.  World Central Kitchen at WCK.org works in disaster areas of all sorts, not just war zones. They focus on humanitarian aid.


Remember, one of the best ways to care for yourself is to care for others. If you choose not to donate to something right now, just a simple smile to somebody can make a huge difference. Just one little smile at a time to make the world a little bit better. 


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along and please subscribe. Hit that like button. If not, drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dreamed of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you.

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