My New Year’s Eve dessert contribution: Tres Leches Cake. It was incredible, and imperfectly delicious.
Now that it’s halfway through January, and I am finally (finally!) back in to a semblance of my routine–which means I’m blogging again. I’ll admit, when you “take a break from everything” during the holidays, it can be pretty difficult to get yourself in to gear again. This past week felt like the first big push down the hill of 2011, but it’s always that initial grunt that takes the most effort (though the middle of the year valley is never easy either).
Lately, I’ve been in a bubble. Shorter days lead to me getting home when it’s dark, the cold makes me lethargic, and I feel like I waste my time away, looking at randomness on the internet. Caleb was out of town this past week as well, and I had all sorts of plans for organizing areas of our home or getting started on projects, and for the most part it just didn’t happen. I listened to Harry Potter audiobooks, read a zillion blogs, and did a lot of nothing. My sense of discipline was slowly lowering its expectations–there was a time, once, when I got up early enough to actually cook breakfast. When I worked out at the gym. And once you let one thing go, it starts to feel easier and easier to say, “I’ll do it later,” or “I really don’t feel like moving right now.”
When I think about all of the things I want to do (the things I should do), I start to feel so overwhelmed. And I realized the other day that much of it has to do with my own expectations. I came across a really interesting piece called “Going Dutch” on Slate.com that talks about the difference between Dutch women (most of whom only work part time) and American women (75% of those who work, work full time). Dutch women have shown, time and time again to be happier than American women. But it’s not just because they work less–it’s because they don’t try to be perfect:
The problem for American women…is the notion that we need to be perfect at everything we do. TV shows, advertisements, and articles from women’s magazines have formed this composite of a perfect woman who is successful at work, nurturing at home, always optimistic, and impeccably dressed. […] The ideal American woman doesn’t just putter around in the kitchen or dabble in knitting. She opens a cake shop and knits scarves for fashion shows. She appears on Oprah. She follows her dreams.
I confront this desire every day–with every blog I read, every post on Facebook, every book I read. I see things and say, “I could do that. I could make that. I can dress like that.” And yes, if I put all my energy in to doing that thing (whatever it is) perfectly, I probably come pretty close.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that I’ve started letting the desire to be perfect keep me from even trying.
Voltaire was actually the one who really said it: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I’ve heard the quote before, but it came to my mind in a much more meaningful way after reading that article (and after a conversation with a friend who was dealing with the same thing). I need to set goals that are manageable. To attempt, even if I don’t attain. To do what is good, what I can–even if it isn’t perfect. To stop letting perfect get in the way of good.
In light of that, I decided to make some (slightly late) goals for 2011. Simple ones (because I do love simple) that I can aim to accomplish, then build on as I go:
Work out twice a week
Ideally, I should be working out more than that, but right now my exercise routine consists of going up the four flights of stairs to get to the office each day. I want to start by doing something active (with a focus on exerting energy) twice a week. Yoga, walking, going to the gym, push-ups and crunches on the floor of my living room–so long as I’m doing pushing my body, it counts.
Steps to making this happen include: getting up a little earlier, planning meals ahead so that I can go straight from work to the gym, and moving my alarm so that I get up earlier.
Knit a sweater
I’ve done quite a bit of knitting and sewing, but never any actual pieces of “real” clothing (you know, as opposed to a scarf or other items that don’t require “fitting”). I won’t lie, it scares me. It means there are measurements and gauge and a much greater chance of messing up. But it’s time for me to get over it, and I’m going to start with a sweater.
Steps to making this happen include: Knitting a baby sweater (less yarn = less to undo if I have to start over), finding a sweater pattern and yarn that I like, giving myself a deadline.
Make one meal each week that I’ve never made before
I try to be creative with our menu options, but there are so many things I like to make that we do fall into a cooking routine pretty easily. There are mountains of cookbooks and so many incredible recipes floating around, so it’s time for me to start putting more of them under my cooking belt. I have tried-and-true recipes for meals that I love, but who knows what I’m missing out on because I haven’t tried a slightly different recipe for the same dish?
Steps to making this happen include: writing down new recipes that catch my eye, using Evernote to tag recipes that I’ve saved but haven’t made, giving myself enough time on the weekends to make a meal plan and do my shopping.
Wake up earlier
I know this one will be particularly challenging, but it needs to happen. I’ve gotten in the terribly bad habit of hitting the “snooze” button six too many times, then rushing to get ready for work. I want to start my mornings on a better note, with time to cook breakfast, read the Bible, and really prepare for the day. There’s a great ebook from Kat at Inspired to Action called “Maximize Your Mornings” that I’ve read before, but I’m going to actually follow through with and DO this year. Starting this week.
Steps to making this happen include: going to bed earlier, catching myself before I spend two hours on Facebook and it’s 11:30pm, moving the iPhone (my alarm) away from my bed, planning fun breakfast ideas.
For me, I hope that 2011 will be a year of good things. They may not be perfect, but they will be good.
What ideas of perfection are keeping you from attempting something good? Do you have any simple goals for the New Year?