Celebrate progress, not perfection

I heard that phrase recently in regard to a new podcast that’s out. With apologies, I don’t recall which podcast it is, but I loved the phrase because it succinctly encapsulates my approach to writing (and various other things) that I’ve been using for a while.

Life and everything in it will rarely be perfect, so it’s foolish to think you should only be happy when something turns out that way. Instead, celebrate any positivity that happens.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, as the saying goes.

Particularly these days, mid-pandemic, when our worlds have been turned upside down and things are weird and stressful and just…off, anything positive that you do for yourself or others, any achievement, is a good thing, and that’s worth being happy about.

Was your accomplishment–word count, weight lost, distance run, whatever–good? Meaning, was there any progress made, let alone notable progress? If so, celebrate it.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to do better next time. There’s always room for improvement. But even if you fall short of that goal, you still made the effort, and are better for it.

And if you didn’t make any progress because you didn’t put in the effort? Hey, life gets busy, you forgot, and sometimes we forget things or just plain can’t manage to do them. Don’t beat yourself up over it. It happens to everyone. Just make a deal with yourself to really try next time. Trying at all is progress over not trying, and any progress is good.

I already default to being happy for the progress of those around me. My wife is a teacher and, like many, had to scramble this past spring when all teachers and students in the country were sent home for pandemic isolation, and she had a crazily steep learning curve on how to get her Google Classroom not just up and running but also personalized and cool enough that she could live with it. She did that (often at personal sacrifice of time with the family and of sleep, being up into the wee hours working on the site) and then way more: She’s no technophile, but had to learn how to troubleshoot the issues her students were having getting online and into the classroom with various devices and with painfully little help from her own I.T. department.

But she did it. And it was very impressive; progress on a number of fronts. She was happy with what she’d done and I was happy for her.

My daughter? I wouldn’t know where to start with her progress. She’s continuing with French immersion, and had already long ago surpassed my knowledge of French. Her art skills are now well past mine, as well, and seemingly getting better weekly. She recently got her red belt in jujitsu. She’s programming in Python. Her interests are far and wide and boundless, and as a dad I’m of course happy seeing her making any bit of progress in any respect.

Family, friends, others? It’s easy for me to be happy for their progress.

But being happy with myself? With my own progress? That’s a taller order, but it’s something I’ve finally started making myself do. Not being over-the-top about every tiny thing I manage–What? Another hour has gone by without you having any Halloween candy? You’re killing it, Jespersen!–but at least acknowledging worthwhile stuff and being happy that progress is being made.

I’ll never be perfect, nor may anything I ever do, but making any progress is good, and is absolutely a reason to celebrate.

Do the same for yourself.

You deserve it.