Last week I poured all my creative energy into completing the third draft of my book. It’s taken me over a year to complete this project that I thought would take six weeks and it’s been way harder than I imagined.
Reflecting on my process with writing the book got me thinking about two related ideas that I want to share with you today: the power of commitment and permission to be imperfect.
My all-time favorite author, Annie Dillard, advises authors to write a “shitty first draft.” Just get your ideas down on paper, even if it’s messy. I’ve been thinking that I can bring that embrace of imperfection to whole swaths of my life, far beyond writing. Just get it out there and do the best I can, while bearing in mind Maya Angelou’s instructions: “Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”
Today I want to give you a permission slip to lean into your own imperfections. To look at the aspects of your own work for change where you have perhaps submitted a shitty first draft, and ask yourself, do I know better now? And now that I know better, how can I do better?
Inertia will keep things going in the direction they’re going. It takes a willful, conscious effort to shift our choices and actions into a new direction. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to be imperfect. We all are. The magic move is in catching ourselves and making a new choice.
I’ll give you a concrete example.
Most of the time my day-to-day life with my partner, Christine, is a textbook version of living happily ever after. But every now and then we get caught in a little bit of a rut. Maybe there’s some criticism back and forth. Maybe one of us is feeling misunderstood or unappreciated. Who knows exactly what it is. The key isn’t in the precise diagnosis, it is in the ability to catch ourselves in that dynamic and interrupt the pattern.
One of our favorite hacks is the do-over. Here’s a recent example. We were both in the kitchen, cooking dinner, and things just felt off. Christine declared, “I think we need a do-over,” which is our code word for this hack that always works. Even knowing that it always works, I will confess that part of me was like, “No, let’s just stay here and keep being bitchy a little longer.”
But I’ve learned to discipline myself to ignore the adrenaline junkie in my head that wants to land one more zinger for the win. So I agree. At which point, Christine literally stops chopping vegetables, heads out to the driveway, circles back to the front door, swings it open with dramatic flair, and announces in a cheery voice, “hey family, I’m home!” At which point the kids get all excited and greet her at the door, I join in, too, and we all enjoy a good laugh and a big family hug. We don’t go back and relitigate whatever was the cause of the spat. We just move forward. We knew better and we did better.
You can get a do-over at work, too. The key is that someone has to call the do-over and everyone has to be in on the game. But it’s entirely possible. Just decide not to go down that rabbit trail of blame and criticism another minute. Because there’s no prize at the end of that trail.
What enables this do-over hack to work is a commitment to something bigger than being right. In my relationship with Christine, it’s our commitment to a conscious loving relationship. In my work, it is a commitment to helping social change leaders make their big dent in the Universe. The do-over is a reliable way to recommit ourselves to the bigger picture.
I’m curious if any of you have attempted a do-over before – at home or at the office. Or if there’s anything that’s wanting a do-over right now. Maybe this is a message from the Universe to call it.
When you know better, do better.
Need some help finding a starting point? Take our free course “What’s Your Big In The Universe”. Have fun with this one!
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