It’s an excuse for scared people, and the cost = your potential.
In 2012 my new entrant classroom at David Street School in Morrinsville was an absolute thing of beauty.
It had a garden theme.
Each morning my students were greeted by a Very Hungry Caterpillar made out of paper lanterns dangling from the ceiling. There were crepe paper vines climbing the walls. Butterfly decals adorning the windows and plastic bugs hot glued to anything that wasn’t moving.
Yep – Room 16 was the most Pinterest worthy classroom I’d ever seen.
When it came time to pack up that classroom for the end of the year it was one hell of a job. It took me absolutely hours to take down all of the decorating that I’d done. Do you know how long it took the kids to take down their work …?
About 10 seconds.
During the pack up it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d spent so much time and energy (not to mention money) on making my classroom look absolutely perfect, that I’d lost sight of what the space should have been about – THE STUDENTS! My quest for the perfect classroom had cost my students the opportunity to put their own stamp on the room that they spent 6 hours a day in. It didn’t reflect them at all – just the shiny/perfect version of me that I wanted the world to see.
That day I realised that having a B+ looking classroom was what I needed to shoot for, in order to promote growth, agency and ownership for the kids in my class. I owed it to them to drop the charade and step outside of my comfort zone to embrace the unpolished reality of the learning process.
In 2013 there was no theme in my classroom or walls adorned with my work, nor any year since.
Perfectionism is all about staying safe
If you explain away the discomfort of trying something new by saying “oh I’m too much of a perfectionist to let that happen” then you are letting fear stop you from doing anything new & exciting. My friend, that stops TODAY!
We all have thoughts that keep us in our nice safe bubble of mediocrity and stop us from taking risks.
🍎 I can’t lead that staff meeting until I’m 100% confident with using the mBots.
🍎 I want to start a blog, but if I do it now, no one will read it.
🍎 I won’t share these pictures of my classroom because someone on the NZ Teachers Facebook page will criticise it.
🍎 I can’t apply for that leadership role because I haven’t had enough experience.
🍎 We can’t share this with parents until it’s absolutely perfect.
But, what if you didn’t wait until you could do things perfectly?
What if you tried something new and embraced the idea that initially, you’ll probably achieve a B+ result because that’s what learning looks like?
“Fake it until you become it.”
These are words of wisdom from the one and only Amy Cuddy. She talks about the power of thoughts and your body language in her super popular TED Talk. In a nutshell, she describes that you can trick yourself into feeling more confident just by adopting a ‘power stance’ for a few minutes. Whether you’re heading to a job interview or prepping yourself for a tricky parent meeting, standing in a strong pose (think superhero) can actually alter the chemicals in your brain and help you to approach the situation with more confidence.
So with this in mind, we can assume that it’s not actually our ability that gives us confidence, it’s the way that we think and feel about ourselves that pushes us to get things done. Yes, you can be confident, long before you’ve achieved what you’re working towards.
All beginners start with A+ effort, and B+ results.
If you’ve ever wanted to start a business, begin a blog, present at a conference, sell resources online … you won’t know that you are capable of doing it, until, well… you actually do it! That’s why the most important thing you can do is start!
Not just any action, but imperfect action.
When you’re exploring something new, it can absolutely scare the pants off you – I can’t even begin to tell you how long I hovered over the publish button before I put my first blog post out into the world! If you’re shooting for perfection- it’s absolutely impossible to achieve as a beginner, so have a think about what would happen if you take that pressure off yourself and put B+ results out into the world?
I’ll tell you what happens – you learn to fail fast. Your B+ results will very quickly show you what works and what doesn’t. You’ll notice your strengths and weaknesses beginning to emerge. You’ll take risks like never before, because your fear of being perfect will be replaced by the thrill of doing something you’ve never done before.
Take it for a spin and notice what happens
Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do that scares you a little bit?
Don’t wait for a time in the future when you know that you’ll be able to do it perfectly, because that time will never come. The only way to achieve something is to start. Start with A+ effort and B+ results. That’s how we learn and grow and I’m sure you encourage your students to do it, it’s time for you to extend the same courtesy to yourself.
Write that book, record that video, create that resource, present at that conference. Give yourself permission to do something imperfect. The only thing that you have to lose is your own fear.