As a kid, I heard the words practice makes perfect all of the time.
While learning to ride a bike. Playing the piano. Swimming backstroke. Giving a speech.
Practice makes perfect, they said. My parents, teachers, coaches, mentors. All encouraging me with these words that were meant to challenge and inspire.
The message I was given was that if I practiced hard enough, perfection would be the end result.
Except for when it wasn’t.
Because even after all of the practicing, I still managed to crash my bike a few times. I played the wrong note on the piano when nerves got the best of me. Slammed my hand on the wall of the pool after misjudging my strokes. Stumbled over words I had memorized.
And while I mostly did a good job, saw improvement, and got better, I never achieved perfection.
I did, however, develop perfectionist tendencies. These tendencies meant that I often found myself opting out of new experiences and challenges for fear of looking foolish or not succeeding. If I didn’t think there was a strong possibility that I would achieve great success in an area, I was reluctant to try. Activities that required a steep learning curve that might initially involve plenty of trial and error often left me feeling anxious and afraid of making mistakes.
I had decided that practice makes perfect was the only reason to practice at all.
What an insane amount of pressure!
When I think back to my five-year-old self, my tween and teen years, and then the young woman I was in college and in my 20s, I want to tell her that she can relax; it’s all going to work out. She internalized so much anxiety and so many insecurities related to her performance. She was terrified of being judged by what other people thought. Instead of diving in with excitement when new experiences were presented, she either held back out of fear or she practiced relentlessly, working to achieve that ever-elusive perfection.
Do you know what I would do if I could go back in time?
I would change practice makes perfect to practice makes BETTER.
I would tell myself that the ultimate goal is not to achieve perfection but to continue to grow as a person. To Seek new challenges and stretch outside of my comfort zone. To follow every interest and curiosity that pops into my head and dive into learning and exploring.
The people I admire most in this world are the ones who live their lives from a place of kindness, respect, curiosity, and adventure. They’re not striving for perfection, they’re striving for better.
They are the ones who go back to school at 45. Learn to sail at 50. Take up yoga at 62. Learn how to play the ukulele at 70. And observing how they live their lives has inspired me to make some changes in my own.
Here are steps that I have taken to implement a practice makes better mentality in my own life:
1. Accept that mistakes will happen
It is not a matter of IF mistakes will happen, but a matter of WHEN. Knowing this provides a level of acceptance and freedom.
2. Celebrate these mistakes
Mistakes often occur when we are attempting something new. Celebrating these mistakes serves as a reminder that we have challenged ourselves and stepped outside of our comfort zone.
3. Choose an activity that interests you but that you know nothing about
What are you curious about? Choose something that you know nothing about and take the risk of making mistakes as you learn.
4. View “failures” as growth
Anytime you work hard and “fail” you have the ability to learn and grow. A failure doesn’t mean you’ve reached a dead end and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should give up. It means that it didn’t work out this time and that when you try again, you can try a new approach.
5. Laugh at yourself – don’t take yourself too seriously
Look, this wild ride of trying new things and making mistakes has the potential to be full of joy and growth. But only if you maintain the ability to keep your sense of humor. If you’re able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously, you will enjoy this process so much more.
6. Do this alongside your children
Doing this for ourselves not only benefits us, but it’s a tremendous way to model creativity and resilience for our children. When they see us trying new things, taking risks, making mistakes, experiencing failures, and then picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off, they observe how to navigate new experiences themselves. What a gift!
Practice makes better is all about learning, creativity, resilience, and optimism. It is a beautiful way of living life where we’re able to squeeze every last ounce of potential out of the experiences in our lives.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to embrace your life with a spirit of practice makes better!