Episode 39: Precision Over Perfection

Join me this week as I share how and why to use precision in creative work over perfectionism.

I share:

  • My journey from perfectionism to precision using throwing pottery as a metaphor
  • The problem with perfectionism, and how it stops creativity
  • How to define precision for yourself, and a practice to do this week

Episode links:

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Full episode transcript below:

Welcome to today's episode, Precision Over Perfection. 

Let's talk about perfectionism and more specifically an antidote that I turn to when perfectionism crops up for me, which is precision. As a member of this community, if you're listening right now, I'd say it's more likely than not that you identify as a perfectionist. And that's my educated guess based on experience. 

And here's what I know, perfectionism can be truly debilitating, and worst of all, is it slows us way, way, way down. We create less, share less, and therefore have less to offer the world, and less of the impact that I know that each of us desires to make. We move slower.

And the worst part is that perfectionism can become crippling as time goes on, and the acceptable window of tolerance becomes smaller and smaller. This is problematic for many reasons, but mostly because I believe that the world needs each of us to make our unique contribution.

 I believe that all of us have a unique offering based on our personalities, what we come into this world with, our conditioning, our unique perspective and point of view, and that someone somewhere needs what you're thinking about. And when we go to perfectionism, which is understandable, that's part of our culture, a lot of conditioning that we receive.

But when we work through perfectionism, we offer less of ourselves.  It's filtered, right?  It needs to be perfect, a perfect version of us, a perfect version of our idea. And I think that that is ultimately tragic because it's diluted. We dilute ourselves, our ideas,  what we create are diluted, so that they can fall into  perfect perfectionism.

 And I don't believe that's why we're here. I don't believe that we're here to become perfect beings who make perfect things and offer perfect things to the world. I think we're here to live our humanity, and follow our curiosities, and give to other people. I think most people have that calling, especially if you're listening right now, I imagine you do. And that you want to share your work with the world. And I think perfectionism is a hurdle that a lot of us need to learn how to, I wanna say overcome, but it might actually just be learning how to work with it. It might not be something that ever goes away. 

For me, the idea of precision helps me work with  my perfectionistic tendencies.

And I wanna share a really important, and I think freeing distinction that I've learned. And I'm gonna use the example of throwing pottery, which is one of my favorite mediums to work in.   

So if I'm throwing pottery and I'm using perfectionism to do it, this is what it sounds like for me: 'this is how I know how to throw perfectly. And I don't take into account the moisture of the clay, the humidity outside, the temperature, the form I'm throwing. I am only thinking about this is the perfect skillset, this is the perfect way to throw a pot. And so I'm gonna follow that series of steps, and I'm not gonna take into account anything else. That's perfectionism. I'm gonna do this act perfectly, but I'm filtering out other information in the process.' And it's really limiting, I think, because we're not using the information and the wisdom that is available to us in this moment.

 Throwing pottery, or throwing a pot, in this example from perfectionism means that I'm not taking advantage of all of the resources that I have available to me in this moment. 

Now, let's compare that to precision. To me, precision sounds like this if I'm throwing pottery again, that's the analogy that we're working with here. ' I'm doing what my training has taught me. I'm using the best skillset that's available to me, with all of my hours of practice and study, and I'm attuned to the information and the input that I'm receiving and noticing in this moment, and that makes the work better.'

So I'm using my best skillset in the moment, given how my body's feeling, how I'm rested, how nourished I am, et cetera, all of the training I've been through and received, all the classes I've taken, all of the studying I've done, I'm also taking into account environmental factors, the temperature, the humidity, the moisture, and also this like magical I, this is what I love about pottery is every day is different. So  you can try to control for all of the materials and it will still be different day to day. I feel like that's why this is such a beautiful metaphor or analogy here. 

And I think that incorporating all of the information that's available to you, what's going on in your body, in your life, your training, your skillset, environmental factors in the moment, that makes the work better. And I think that's the whole point. I think that's the beauty of it. 

I think years ago when I was starting to make creative work, I had such strict rules for myself about, I mean, talk about perfectionistic work. A lot of the jewelry that I made, I had to strive for perfectionism because the margin of error in jewelry is really, really slim, like millimeters. Can make a huge difference, and a part of me loves the challenge of that, but part of it was also probably not very helpful, because it just made me be more perfectionistic because there was such a slim margin of error and things could go wrong in one second, or by taking away a half of a millimeter too much wax or a flame being on metal for literally a second too long. That just kind of fed my perfectionism. 

But then I started to learn pottery and it was this basically like lawless land where so many different things are impacting it. Clay is not as controllable as metal and  it was such a beautiful experience for me to yield to the creative process of clay because you can control some things and you cannot control some other things. 

 That was a bit of a tangent, my kind of meditation on jewelry and pottery and I mean, I love them both so much and they're both, I think, different expressions for me of my creativity.  Okay, so back to precision. 

Precision is magic. It is a magical combination of skill, intuition, presence, and flow. And it's only available to us if we are open and curious. And I think our work and our experience of making is so much better for it.

I love too, that precision can be different day to day, based on like a minute ago what I was just saying about how's your body feeling, how rested are you, what's the temperature like. All of these different factors mean that it changes day to day- your expression of precision changes day to day. 

I think that's the most true expression of creativity that there is. It's not something that we can control and hold really tightly and define. It's this flowing, kind of mystical process that we all participate in and are obsessed with, I think. And partially because we know we can't hold it. It's like sand, right? Like the harder you hold it, the more it slips through your hands. Very similar to that. 

It's something that we wanna participate in and understand more and learn more and express more, but it's not something that we can like put in a box and really define. 

Okay, so that's my, I guess, meditation on precision over perfection.

And this week I would encourage you to experiment with precision versus perfectionism. Notice what it feels like to recognize that you're in perfectionism. What is that patterning like in your body? What does it feel like? What are you telling yourself? For me, I like hold a specific body pattern. Like my shoulders are kind of tight. I'm like controlling, right? I'm trying to grip and control something through the experience. And for you, what is that like? What does it feel like in your body? What does it sound like so that you're aware when you're in it. And then when you notice you're in perfectionism, consciously lean into precision.

What is your experience like when you're in precision? When you're in the highest expression of your creativity today? What that looks like today? Not a macro definition of your whole life, but what is it like for you today to express precision in your creative practice?

 I'm so glad that you are here and that we get to walk our paths together. See you next time. Same time, same place. Bye for now.

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