Perfectionism (and a birth announcement)
Sometimes you want everything to be just perfect - whether it's the essay you are writing, or the Christmas lunch you are preparing, or the website you are building.
But sometimes perfect becomes an obstacle.
I often struggle with perfectionism. I haven't yet shown anyone the novel I have been working on for over a year, because I find it hard to let people I respect read a flawed piece of work, even when I know their input might be essential to my progress. By Boxing Day this year I felt pretty disgruntled by the fact that a whining dog, some undercooked veg, and a bit of unhelpful traffic had undermined my careful Christmas preparation. As for giving birth (which happened exactly 10 weeks ago), let's just say it was not the flawlessly-calm-hydro-hypno experience that I had had in mind.
If you want to make God laugh, show him your birth plan.
Moreover, we are shortly to launch our new project for Griffin + Bell - a video learning site. We produced the tutorial videos last year and the website has been under construction for the last few months. When you watch yourself on film, it's hard not to dwell on every imperfection, whether it's a stray bit of frizz, a slight shadow, a mispronunciation, or an almost inaudible clearing of the throat. It's tempting to ask for further edits... another take... back to the drawing board. The same goes for every detail of the web design.
And then you discover that the mistakes which bug you to the point of obsession usually go entirely unnoticed by everyone else.
Yes, it's good to make your output as brilliant as possible - but you have have to put it out. You can't let perfect get the better of you.
Little kids are the masters of this attitude. They're happy to make to mistakes, in general: toddlers will often perform a dance with gusto despite not being sure of the steps, or they'll proudly hand over a picture they've drawn, whilst quite aware that it's gone a bit wrong. They're not forever holding back and starting again.
By 10 or 11 (and I write this having recently run our 11+ courses with 16 kids of this age) perfectionism is often taking root. Kids become unwilling to hand in work if they know there's a mistake in it. They start blushing when they forget the rules of the game, or beginning a fresh sheet rather than crossing out an error and moving forward, or focusing not on the 19 questions they could do, but on the one that they couldn't. The result can be a loss in confidence.
So, one thing I'm going to encourage this year, in myself and in my students, is to view myself as Miss Productive rather than Miss Perfect. I'll work on making things as brilliant as they can possibly be - but getting them done. Showing others. Asking for feedback. Finishing work. Learning.
Often the result of an imperfect process can be pretty perfect, anyway. Our beautiful box-fresh baby girl (pictured) is a case in point.