Thursday, September 29, 2016

Practice Makes Progress

You know the old saying of "practice makes perfect"? Well, I need a re-write. My life isn't perfect. In fact, very little about my life is perfect, and honestly, I don't want it to be. At least not by society's standard of proclaimed perfection. I'm going for progress. Just some kind of effort being made to demonstrate that things can get better, and evidence that they have. Slowly. Very very slowly at times...

My daughter was having yet another meltdown explosion when I came to the realization that we needed a slogan that was much more forgiving than the seeking of perfection. In one of the many self-help books I've read lately, the author introduces the concept of "Imperfect Progress". This is the idea that most of our would-be progress is held back based on the fear of lacking perfection in our attempts. The gist of it is that we will fail. Repeatedly. But as long as we learn something and attempt to make progress, failure is better than the fear that keeps us from even trying. That's what grace is for.

So it was during yet another screaming episode from my 12-year-old that I waited for her to take a few breaths and asked her about the importance of practice when something is hard (such as self-control). The angry mutter of "practice makes perfect" came out of her mouth. Nope, wrong answer. So I told her that I'm not expecting perfection from her, that'd be ridiculous and way way too hard for her to get even close to in her current emotional state. Instead, I want her to just simply try to do better. Make progress. Practice makes progress. You may never achieve perfection, which is fine, because that's an unreachable or unsustainable goal in most instances anyway. But the only way you'll make progress is by trying - by practice. It took several times of walking her through our new "practice makes progress" slogan before she caught on to the full implications of it, but by the end she was less weighted down and had much more realistic expectations of herself (and the rest of the world). I'm not saying that the fight is over, or that she'll keep track of this idea in the heat of the moment - at least not at this point in time. But as long as we both can remember that concept after the cool down period is over, and find some sort of progress to be claimed, than it's served it's purpose in helping everyone through a hard spot with a little more grace in the moment.

So there it is, practice makes progress. Now, if I can only find a way to convince myself that progress is "good enough". Baby steps, right?

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