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The first mistake of the year!

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I once read an illustration that went something like this*: A potter making a new pot began by intentionally marring the pot. He does so because it is inevitable that he will make mistakes and his work will fall short of perfection. By purposefully making an error, he frees himself from the fear of trying to avoid that first mistake and can give all his intention to creating a beautiful piece despite the imperfection.

Saturday, I finally got around to laying out my new bullet journal for the year. Honestly, the reason I waited until the last minute was because I was apprehensive about messing it up. I had been using a cheap notebook to get the hang of this bullet journal thing, but I wanted something nicer now that I know what I’m about. So I got this beautiful, red Leuchtturm1917 journal for Christmas. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) Finally, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had my plan written out and my Pinterest pages up. I was ready to go. I began by writing out with my 2017 yearly calendar … and promptly screwed up. Well, not promptly. I made it all the way to the end of July before I skipped July 24. July 22, 23, 25, 26, and so on until the middle of October when I finally realized my mistake. Bless my dang heart. So the very first page of my bullet journal for the year is messy and flawed. Way to go, April!

Do yourself a favor and embrace your mistakes! They're going to happen regardless.
Here it is in all it’s glory: The first mistake of the new year. Or possibly the last mistake of the old year, depending on your perspective.

But in some ways, it is actually a relief. No, I didn’t really want the first page of my new journal to be messed up, but I was much more relaxed as I continued setting up the journal for the new year because the mistake was already made. As much as a bullet journal can be (but doesn’t need to be!) a thing of beauty, it’s also a tool that’s primary purpose is to help me organize my life. A messy page isn’t the end of the world. But the fear of making a mistake was keeping me from using the tool and from moving forward. Once the mistake was made, the apprehension of screwing up is gone. I already did it, and I didn’t die. Huh. Onward to the next page — and the next mistake.

Honestly, the fear of screwing up hampers my creativity and productivity more anything else — even more than Facebook! I have 95 blog posts in my draft folder, and this is after a great purging that eliminated more than half of them. But I’ve never gotten them just right, so I didn’t want to post them. I tell myself I’ll get around to perfecting them someday, but perfection is an elusive goal. 

Many of us approach resolutions the same way — they have to be achieved perfectly or we’ve failed. And some of us think we’ve already “failed.” We’ve succumbed to donuts in the breakroom or couldn’t crawl out of bed for that morning run. We yelled at our kids or spent the whole day on social media when we said we were definitely NOT going to do that this year. There’s a temptation to think that one screw up means you’ve failed utterly. 2017 resolutions over; try again next year. And even if we haven’t made the first mistake, we are probably stressing out about that inevitable slip up. That’s no way to live and certainly not any way to reach our goals.
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Instead, we can embrace the fact that we will screw up. Repeatedly. Possibly frequently. Maybe even spectacularly. But failure doesn’t have to ruin a resolution or habit or goal. It may alter it, but it doesn’t ruin it — unless your goal is to be perfect, in which case I got nothing for you. Perfection is unobtainable, but growth is not. In fact, failure may be more beneficial to self-improvement than success. Mistakes can help us pinpoint the areas that need work (like slowing down and paying attention to the task at hand, April.) Failure can help us see what is practical and what is not in our goals. Blunders can show us where we need to ask for help. Falling short of perfection shows us that we’re stretching past our comfort zone.

That last point is key because mastery and growth come from trying something a little beyond our reach. By its very nature, growth and improvement require us to attempt things at which we will stink. But we’ll get better. If we work hard enough, we may even master it. At which point it’s time to stink at something new.

So this year, I resolve to embrace my screw ups. I resolve to be humbled but not discouraged by my mistakes. I resolve to let failure teach me. I resolve to risk falling so that I can soar.

What do you resolve? 

*If anyone recognizes this and can tell me where it came from, please do! I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember it. And Google is no good. All I get is a million sermons and devotionals about how the Potter doesn’t make mistakes. 

I just grabbed this timely book: The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to Be Beautiful. As of this moment, it’s $1.99 for Kindle. I have a decorating deficiency and feel more than a little intimidated by the lovely homes of friends and family. And don’t get me started on professional advice. This is why I don’t watch home improvement shows. I can’t handle the pressure!

4 responses to “The first mistake of the year!”

  1. carrie holley-hurt Avatar

    I love this! I resolved to give myself some space (a breath, maybe two) between incident and action and wouldn’t you know it I spent all of January 1st screwing up. 🙂

    1. April Avatar

      Me too! And now that we’ve got THAT out of the way, we don’t have to worry about it.

  2. Dana Avatar

    Yes, yes, yes. Fear of failure keeps me from doing many things. I have also come to realize that I have a moderate fear of success. Of getting to the point where I’m not just doing what I want and enjoying occasional successes, but actually to the point where I have obligations and (more my worry) peopple to disappoint.

    1. April Avatar

      Yes! Exactly! Although I wonder if that is also an issue of being reluctant to say no. I have to remind myself that it’s not actually a curse word and that people who make requests are not, in fact, the boss of me. I get to decide what I do with my time and effort. I fail at that, too.

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