Lesson 11 - Growth, not perfection

Nature does not require that we be perfect; it requires only that we grow, and we can do this as well from a mistake as from a success." - Rollo May

Some of the audios in Emerge bring more structure and support, ballast under your feet. Others gently ask you to stretch - to do a hard thing, to try something new, to open to new ideas, or to move into action. And others are about rest and softening.

Today's audio falls in the latter category - it's a way to move into greater rest. But ironically, in doing so, you're also being encouraged to stretch - to soften the pull and pursuit of perfectionism. It's two in one!

Today you're going to learn about softening perfectionism by opening to growth.

Some neuroscientists say that the brain is designed to learn by failure - what a thought! Apparently, what doesn't work sinks in more than what does work.

But failure and mistakes can feel so scary - so scary that we think we need to avoid them at all costs. This is where we try really hard to do everything 'right' and try to avoid making mistakes. Somehow, we thought making mistakes was a problem - rather than the natural way that we learn.

When we see mistakes as a problem, we often criticize ourselves. In its own way, self criticism is how we're trying to protect ourselves, how we're trying to keep ourselves 'safe' from the enemy, the big bad wolf of mistakes.

This shuts down our spontaneity, and shuts down our creativity and courage - our willingness to experiment, to try many different solutions, and to see what works. Criticism also shuts down growth, learning, and our willingness to attempt hard things.

In her book Bird by Bird, beloved writer Anne Lamott has this to say about perfectionism: "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life."

Growth, on the other hand is more like this. This is from existential psychologist Rollo May: "Nature does not require that we be perfect; it requires only that we grow, and we can do this as well from a mistake as from a success."

Ah - what relief! Mistakes are not a problem!

Whether we do something 'right' or 'wrong,' we receive feedback - which means we can grow and learn from both successes and mistakes. I would add because of mistakes!

Today, I ask you to consider this idea as you connect to your intentions and commitments here in Emerge:

When something goes well, it's feedback: wow, that was really helpful! That may be something to remember the next time I find myself in this situation.

And when something goes poorly, it's also feedback: hmm....that didn't work. I wonder what would help, instead?

Both support your growth and learning.