A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Familiar with this Chinese proverb?
While a few of you may be energized by the possibility of taking off on a thousand mile journey towards a distant, yet-unknown future destination, chances are, many of you feel daunted by the prospect. Wow, a thousand miles? I was about to strap on my knapsack and lace up my sensible walking shoes, but I’m already feeling worn out, and a little discouraged.
Or, maybe, like me, you feel both ways at once? Ready, eager and yearning to step into something new and challenging, and also fearful. Is this journey gonna be hard? But I want to grow! Is it gonna lead anywhere satisfying and rewarding? But I value surprise and risk! Am I gonna make the same mistakes/choices as I have before and end up more-or-less back where I started? But messing up is part of learning. Is this a loop trail cause I want to be on the mountaintop?!
For the non-starters in the group, the pre-conditions for your journey may need to feel just right before you can begin. You need the perfect starting point, plenty of free time, all the right gear, snacks, good weather, and you just need to finish just this ooooone other thing before we set off.
Others of you may have no problem taking that first, or even second or third step, but maybe you get lost, distracted, lose hope or direction along the way? Maybe you like to have multiple thousand step journeys going on at once like open tabs on a computer screen? For the non-finishers, you may set off with gusto and then get sucked into self-doubts, blocks or battles with your inner critic along the way.
Whether you’re challenged by starting or completing a creative project, or a bit of both - there’s a certain degree of perfectionism in play that can stymie progress, no matter where we are along the way.
An offering: Whether you‘re currently trying to start or complete something right now, can you embrace an attitude of ready enough, or finished enough?
I had a dance teacher who would end each of her classes by saying, “we’ll stop here for now” – which to me, suggested that our work was not complete, but part of a continuum. Her comments conveyed that we’d return next week to pick up where we left off or we’d meet ourselves wherever we’d find ourselves then.
The same logic applies to starting a project, try this out: “I’m gonna start here for now”.
If we can develop a softer relationship to our perfectionism, our need to “get it right”, our pressure for polish – all rigid standards that much of mainstream society normalizes and perpetuates (and that have roots in white supremacy culture, btw) – then perhaps we can begin to make space for other values and norms to come forward: the values of vulnerability, authenticity, experimentation, exploration and growth.
These values 👆are the playground (and the creative ground) of the artist and anyone earnestly attempting to take on something new and challenging.
How can you apply the idea of “ready enough”, “finished enough”, “we’ll start here for now” and “we’ll end here for now” in your life and/or creative pursuits? How can you hold true to the values of vulnerability, authenticity, experimentation, exploration or growth as you begin or move on from a project?
What old beliefs or norms might you need to shed to embrace these new mindsets?
What might be possible if you were ready or finished enough and could start or stop here for now?