Here’s a question for you. When was the last time you let yourself be bad at something? Do you give yourself the freedom to try new things, even if you might really mess them up? Or are you always trying to be perfect in everything you do?
That's certainly my pattern. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing – giving a presentation, writing an article (like this one!), playing a sport, taking a new class – I want to get it right and look skillful, especially if other people are watching. Sound familiar?
The problem is, this attitude can be really constricting, and often counterproductive. By putting all that extra pressure on yourself to perform, you create unnecessary stress on your system. And this in turn can actually lower your performance. Ever tried to hit a tennis ball or throw the perfect pass when you’re feeling anxious and your body’s tight? It’s a recipe for failure. Ever stumbled over your words in a meeting because you were trying so hard to make a good impression? That extra pressure probably didn’t help you much then.
The fact is, we all make mistakes. Even more so when we try new things. But getting it wrong is a crucial part of how we learn to get it right. That’s why they call it ‘trial and error’, not ‘trial and immediate mastery’.
So sometimes I find it helpful to remind myself that being bad at things is great! It means I’m doing something different. It means I’m out of my comfort zone. It means I’m learning. And just maybe, it means I’m creating something new.
If we’re always obsessed by the idea that everything we do has to be flawless, it doesn’t leave much room for experimentation or creativity. As (my fellow Englishman) Sir Ken Robinson says so perfectly: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Amen, Ken.
“But what about practice?” you say. “Can’t I work on getting things right in private before I make a fool of myself?” Yes, of course you can, just remember: there’s a fine line between practice and perfectionism. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of never feeling like your efforts are good enough. The world needs your unique gifts and talents, now. It’s no use if your best ideas are left sitting in the closet, in the box marked ‘Almost Worthy’.
Tapping can help to alleviate some of the fear and tension surrounding this issue. By acknowledging what you're afraid of and giving yourself love anyway, you take some of the pressure off. This allows your body to relax, and your natural skills to shine through. In the video above, I take you through a round of tapping to help you do just that.
So here’s to getting it wrong. Here’s to the mis-steps and the screw-ups. And here’s to staying relaxed and creative, celebrating our failures just as much as our successes!
Let yourself be joyfully bad at things. Because we’re all better off when you do.