Wednesday, December 30, 2015

the way of the half-ass

I've mentioned before that I am a recovering perfectionist. One of the ideas that I've embraced since going into recovery is the idea of half-assing it.  The mantra that goes with half-assing it is: "Half-ass is better than no ass". 

The idea first came to me around how I exercise. I'm one of those people who decides I'm going to get in shape and then sets up a whole regimen: daily routines, a DVD workout set from Jillian Michaels, a little notebook to mark my progress, etc. And I'm good with that for a few weeks or a month or whatever. But then... I get lazy, and I miss a day. Missing a single day is as good as driving the train off the tracks and into the gully, and I know it. I know that as soon as I am achieving at less-than-optimal standards, I give up. It's a symptom of my perfectionism.

But one day I was floundering with my exercise routine, and I decided that rather than skip the whole thing, which was my inclination because I was short on time that day, it would be better if I just took the 10 minutes I had a do some squats and some pushing around of the arm weights and that would be okay. It was half-assed compared to my usual effort, but also literally better than nothing, and the easiest and least I could do while still doing something. It also kept the train on the tracks. Since I came to the Way of the Half Ass, I've been getting more regular exercise.

Half-assing it also goes hand-in-hand with doing the easiest thing that is available to you rather than not doing it because you can't trust or value something that's too easy. This is another aspect of perfectionism: one must unduly suffer. If it's easy, it ain't worth doing. I really believed for years that I was not expressing my deepest artistic self unless it was hard and I was suffering in some way. But really, I think it was a finely tuned fear and procrastination system. I have been so much more creative in the past 18 months because I don't care as much about making "perfect" things anymore. I don't even care about finishing if I don't feel like it.

I think a lot of people out there who are running art-based businesses flounder with things like marketing and creative development because they think they can't do it unless they do it 100% "right", locked in with a beginning-to-end plan, executed with perfection. I say fuck that. Floundering around and doing things whether or not it's "the right way" or shows you at your very best creates its own forward momentum that is more valuable than sitting around in your studio thinking about all the things you're going to do as soon as the time is "right".

It's the things that I don't half-ass that haunt me more than the half-assed things I do. Right now I'm feeling overwhelmed by putting together a new marketing and promotion plan. I have to reach into new areas to get my work out there because my old way of doing things is not working anymore. The fact that I'm overwhelmed is my own little clue that I'm struggling with my perfectionism, and then nothing gets done because the whole thing makes me uncomfortable and I would rather procrastinate. It would be a far better thing to think of a few of the easiest things I could do right now-- send off a few emails to showrooms, ask for help-- than to sit alone in my head.

The bottom line of half-assing-- so to speak-- is not about lowering your standards, but about being kinder to yourself.  Stop with the lashing of the whip, stop with the impossible ideals, stop with the procrastination. Half-ass it. You'll feel better.


19 comments:

  1. What a great way to look at things!

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  2. I LOVE this! Talk about relieving the pressure valve!

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  3. When I struggle with the inability to get things done, it is for the same reason. This is the quote I go to: Sometimes something less than the best is adequate. - Larry Mutti (The smartest and most supportive college professor ever)

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    1. Yep, it's the same philosophy.

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  4. Love your take on the art of perfection and procrastination! .... as a someone similarly afflicted, I am going half ass my way into 2016 and see how it goes ;) Happy New Year!

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  5. Great post. From one great perfectionst to another, the road is long. Takes time and a lot of deep breathing and letting go.

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    1. "Letting go" is the new "hanging on".

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  6. Great post. From one great perfectionst to another, the road is long. Takes time and a lot of deep breathing and letting go.

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  7. Oh, Whitney, this is SO on the point. Perfectionism is beguiling, at first. But being human is the ultimate calling, no? I appreciate you describing your very human half-assedness and bow down to your struggle.

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  8. The best is the enemy of the good.....thanks for this piece.

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  9. Love this. Your words could be mine. Same problem, perfection and procrastination, same problem results, sliding off the track and not doing what I can. Rethinking the defining of "half-assing it" sheds light.

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  10. "Half ass is better than no ass". Love this. Thanks for putting it out there.

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  11. I am going to really take your words to heart this year! thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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  12. Ha! The Way of the Half-Ass is sort of my religion, maybe too much so. I used to wish I could muster up some perfectionism but after reading people who live with it, it doesn't sound all that great after all.
    Good luck to you in the new year.

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  13. wow...thanks for those wise words. maybe i need to half-ass it more. i do the same thing and try to make it all perfect...just need to let it go and do the best i can. thanks!

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  14. this is everything I needed to hear right now. I'm in the beginning stages of creating a business and you've basically captured my inner dialogue of perfectionism. My new mantra this year has been "do one thing" because I can always do one thing, and then when that thing is done I can almost always do another. this is the perfect compliment to that, thank you!!

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    1. When I having a hard moment I try to think of the smallest step I can take toward resolving it, which is similar to the "do one thing" idea. Good luck with your business!

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  15. Hi,
    There's a saying half done ok is way better than not done at all. And another about starting before you are ready to begin. And another about if you wait until it is perfect you will launch it too late.
    You have an amazing insight and awareness into yourself and you are taking little steps of action - awesome!

    thanks
    Bren
    the life coach

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