How many times have you said, “I have to do what’s right for me?”
Over the last two years, as a business owner, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat absolutely dumbfounded, either head in my hands or staring at the wall, because I couldn’t figure out my next step. Let alone the next right thing.
Even writing my weekly column, sometimes I’ll just start to write and nothing makes sense. It looks like a bunch of thoughts crammed onto paper. It’s far from right or perfect but I’ll send it to my editor and beg her to help me clear out the clutter so we can salvage something that makes sense.
I’ve bumped up against so many walls in my life, taking paths or making decisions that don’t serve me the way I want. Or, I’ve been given more challenges than I’ve expected. I would have loved a crystal ball to tell me the right next step, but how uninteresting would that be? How much would I learn? I’d feel like I did it ‘right,’ but I wouldn’t gain knowledge or experience. I’d do it and it wouldn’t be the right or the wrong thing to do, it was simply the thing I did.
I think we should stop thinking about getting things right and explore our ideas and world by doing what we’re drawn to. Let’s fall in love without needing it to be perfect or work out, get rejected over and over again in love and work, make mistakes and take risks, be bold in our dreams, go after what we want and, above all, fail as often as we can.
Contrary to our social projections about perfectionism, making mistakes is what makes us wise, caring, compassionate and brave humans. Many of us attempt to micromanage our relationships and life to avoid being hurt or making mistakes. We’ll set firm boundaries and avoid exploring the world, opportunities, or people for fear of failure.
What’s our obsession with doing the right thing? Isn’t that limiting? Doesn’t it make it easy to judge others for choices we may not have made ourselves, or criticize the choices that brought them wisdoms we’ll never understand? It gives us permission to act superior and hold people accountable to perfectionism.
Remember when you were a kid and you’d make new friends by just walking up to someone and asking them to play? As children our lives were about trying out new games, having new experiences and exploring relationships with new people. Some worked out for the better and lots didn’t.
It’s because of those mistakes that you’ve learned about who you are and what you want in your life. But at some point we lose the willingness to make mistakes. I imagine it’s because we’ve developed a fear around things not going the way we want, heartbreaks and disappointments.
There’s no magic formula of what to do next; there’s control and micromanaging but there’s absolutely no prescription or system that gives you a play by play for your life. Certainty kills playfulness, and perfectionism makes us rigid.
Instead of fearing the unknown, what if we embraced it? How would our lives shift if we didn’t have to get it right all the time? What would you try if you didn’t care about failing?
What have you given up in your search for getting it right?
Failure makes us resilient, gentler, kinder and less obsessive humans. It teaches us what bravery is and allows us to expand our world, experiences and perspectives as we age. I hope we can keep seeking failure. It will make us more interesting people.