Sometimes The Quest for Perfection Can Lead to Frustration

A few years ago, I got it in my head that I could build a small bridge linking a fence to a door that went over a series of stairs at my house.  Now, I know nothing about building or carpentry and even less about bridges.  However, I was committed to making the passing from grass to woodshop seamless.  So, I gathered the materials and began constructing the Bridge to Narnia or was it Terabithia?  As I started building, I realized I didn’t have the right tools.  So, back to the store I went.  Finally, I was ready to start building.  But how?  How do I start doing something I know nothing about, I thought.  So, being a typical macho-man, I just started without planning ahead or asking for help.  As I started putting it altogether, I realized I was building a bridge destined for Hades.  Oh, it was awful.  It was uneven, unsupported, leaky, and a real eye sore.  While my intentions were to create this masterpiece rivaling the Brooklyn Bridge, I ended up with what looked like a shoddy bridge an infant might create using blocks.  The perfectionist in me was unhappy.  I had failed even though I had built a structure.  It was far from perfect.  However, it did the job I wanted it to do.  I didn’t have to go down stairs just to go back up more stairs anymore.  So, I had solved my problem.  But, it wasn’t the way I had wanted to solve it; therefore, I was upset with myself.  I expected more from me.  But why?  I knew nothing about anything I was doing.  Why was I so hard on myself?  Oh that’s right, because I’m a perfectionist.

Today, things didn’t go as planned for the first day of academic orientation.  But there weren’t any major catastrophes.  However, one minor snafu did mar my perspective on today’s outcome.  It shouldn’t, but it did.  I’m working on letting go while trying to realize that the day went the way it was supposed to go even though it doesn’t match the Picasso in my head.

My co-teacher and I had planned an epic schedule for the boys.  We were shooting for the stars.  It was supposed to be awesome.  Then, life happened.  Sometimes, life makes me angry.

So, the students were supposed to receive their iPads today.  We were then going to train them on how to set them up and utilize the many applications we had installed on them.  We were going to get them all set up for the start of classes on Wednesday.  I was so excited.  The boys were even more excited when we told them all about our plan at the start of our time together this morning.  Then, as we began showing them how the iPads work, I realized that I had completely forgotten one major step in the process.

Because we are using iPads in the classroom this year, the boys did not need to go to the technology office this morning to receive their laptop.  But, that meant that they also did not receive their log-in sheet which detailed their email address and log-in information for the Internet.  Oh no.  So, I tried to quickly solve the problem.  I ran over to the tech office and explained the issue.  They understood, but could not help me as they were busy handing out laptops to all of the other students.  I needed to go back later.  So, if we handed our students the iPads, they would be completely useless.  Rather than do this and create chaos in the classroom, we decided to switch gears.  I had a quick pow-wow with my co-teacher and explained the issue.  So, we ended our discussion on iPads, explained to the boys what was going on, and moved on with the schedule.  Things went smoothly.  The boys were flexible and understood.  We were empathetic when explaining what was happening, which I think helped.  The rest of the morning continued seamlessly.  The boys seemed happy.  Nice.

No, not nice.  Because I was frustrated with myself.  How had I missed this?  Why had I forgotten to get their log-in sheets?  Why had the technology office forgotten to give the sheets to me?  What happened to create this problem?

When piloting something new, there are always bumps in the road.  Issues occur and problems happen.  That’s life.  New things take time and dedication.  So, flexibility is crucial when starting a new program.  While all of this makes sense to me, the perfectionist in me is still upset that I messed up.  But, did I really mess up?  Wasn’t it just a small issue that no one could really see coming?  Why am I so hard on myself?  Why must everything always be so perfect?  Perfect doesn’t exist.  Nothing is or ever will be perfect.  It’s like counting to infinity, it’s impossible.  So, then why do I continue to hold myself to impossible standards?

Perhaps I need to practice what I preach in the classroom.  A growth mindset leads to success.  I need to be flexible and expect the unexpected.  I need to be happy with my best effort even if my best effort isn’t perfect.  Sometimes the quest for perfection leads to frustration.  So, why not strive for my best instead?  I know I can give my all to everything I do.  That seems much more manageable.  I like that.  Goal number one for this year: Be my best, not perfect.