I’m staring at a lawn that looks more like a camo designed shirt than a lush green lawn. The lawn has patches of yellow and brown that streak through the withering green. It’s rather sad looking to be honest.
And it’s my lawn.
Enter Jon Acuff’s advise in his book Finish, or what could have easily been titled How to Kill Off Perfectionism, A Manual.
He has a whole chapter dedicated to choosing what to bomb. In order to combat perfectionism, one of the tools is to deliberately acknowledge what you are going to fail at. That’s right. Actually plan out ahead of time what to suck at.
Your goal is to become an author. Which means you’ll have to carve out time for reading (the fuel of authors) and to write (the actual work of authors). But what also has to fit in the plan of the goal is writing down what you are going to choose to let go of as a trade off during this time.
The reason for advise like this is to get us off the hook in our mind’s eye where we are not only working on our amazing goals but we are also attempting to ensure our own ego that we will simultaneously spend time reading and writing and have the best lawn on the block.
Or we’ll have the spareroom completely redone like we said we would.
Or we’ll have the kids dropped off on time everywhere with everything they need while they practice proper manners above and beyond the rest of the struggling disheveled parents who forgot their kids homework or put them in the away jersey even though it’s a home game.
There are things in life we believe we must be flawless with when in reality we need to simply do our best with them for the season we are in. Our best may even be to fail at them temporarily.
Which means your lawn might get an F this summer. It’ll be cut, but it ain’t going to be green.
Getting an A in one thing while getting an F in another isn’t exactly woven into our school system’s fabric. The F becomes a distraction to us because society has conditioned you to work on the F to graduate. But that stops immediately after you leave school for the most part. People hire people for the things they are talented and good at, not for the things they are bad at and could work on a whole lot on the side (or on company time).
Avoiding the F all together becomes a distraction. Bob Goff in his book Undistracted talks about how we must separate being a failure from failing at something. There is of course a massive difference rooted in identity here.
But there’s another point Bob makes where he says “If you believe you are a failure because you failed at something, you won’t get to the things that matter (p 123).” He’s emphasizing failing at our big goals. Giving the lesson to not think of failing at what we want to achieve as some sort of final confirmation you should stop with this goal.
I would also contend this applies to the things we should choose to bomb ahead of as well. When we are not succeeding at something ‘normative’ because we are caught up at achieving our big picture item we should go lenient on ourselves.
Not showering might not be permissible if you work in an office with others, but having a subpar golf game still to this day at the company golf outing isn’t going to hurt your ego as much in the long run if you finish working with and teaching your son how to build an amazing soap box derby car. All those hours you could have spent on your golf game to impress the colleagues won’t be as sweet of a trophy as the soap box derby 1st place finish your son earned.
The next time I find myself wondering why my camo lawn is keeping me from my immediate greater goals in life, I need to simply return to finished. The distractions in life will come a plenty (paying bills is still a good thing to do), but finding and calling out those three or four things which are becoming distractions in our heads that don’t need accomplished now or any time soon will free us to complete what matters most right now.