Lower your expectations

July 07, 2018

When you’re starting a first creative project or beginning the study of an art or craft, what I want you to do is lower your standards until they disappear. That’s right. You’re not supposed to be any good at the beginning. So you might as well give yourself the liberating gift of joyously expecting yourself to be bad.
— Barbara Sheer and Annie Gotlieb, Wishcraft

When I first began writing newspaper and magazine articles, it took me anywhere from one to three months to complete a short article. After writing for a few years, I brought a timer into my office one day. I told myself I knew how to do what I was doing, now I was going to learn to do it more quickly. Before long, I was able to write in two hours what had previously taken me months to accomplish. The key words here are in time.

When I first began recovering from chemical dependency, it took me eight months of treatment to understand what other people were comprehending in six weeks. In time, I became a chemical dependency counselor. In time, I wrote books on the subject. The key words here are in time.

When I first began recovering from codependency, I couldn’t tell a control gesture from setting a boundary. I didn’t know when I was taking care of myself or what that even meant. I didn’t know manipulation from an honest attempt at expressing my emotions. In time, I wrote a best-seller on the subject. Again, the key words here are in time.

Start where you are. Start poorly. Just begin. Let yourself fumble, be awkward and confused. If you already knew how to do it, it wouldn’t be a lesson in your life. And you wouldn’t get the thrill of victory two, five, or ten years from now when you look back and say, “Wow. I’ve gotten good at that over time.”

All things are possible to him or her that believeth, the Bible says. Enjoy those awkward beginnings. Revel in them. They’re the key to your success.

God, help me stop putting off living out of fear of doing it poorly. Help me lower my expectations to allow room for awkward beginnings.

Activity: What have you been putting off or avoiding out of fear of beginning badly? Make a list of each accomplishment you have, whether it’s graduating from elementary school or college, learning a new skill at a job, or being a parent. Then, write in your journal about how it felt in the beginning. Now, make a list of the things you want to do. Next to your goal, write these words to yourself: I give you permission to do this poorly in the beginning. Document your performance each time you attempt that goal. Keep coming back to this section of your journal until you find yourself logging how well you did.

From the book: More Language of Letting Go

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