Imperfect Perfection

It has been two weekends since my last post. So, how did y’all do? Were you able to turn off the email, ignore that text message or let that call go to voicemail? Even just once. I am hoping that you did. If you did, how uncomfortable were you. If you did, were you surprised that it was not as bad as you thought it would be?

I recall the first month that I first turned off notifications to my phone for email, it was a bit stressful. But for the most part, I have gotten used to it.

However, I do have relapses!

Over the Forth of July Weekend, I did pretty good. I did have email communication that I needed to stay up on. While on a bike ride, if Dawn and I stopped for drink or to rest, I would check my emails to see if there were any updates. I did receive a couple of calls while out on that ride that I let go to voicemail. Once I was at our next rest stop, I would check to see who had called.

While kayaking, I did not check anything for the two hours we were out. It was full glorious.

While I did really well over the weekend, the rest of the week, and this past weekend, has been chaos. Cue the relapse.

The week after the fourth, I worked out of town for family. I was mobile most of the time and still needed to stay up to date on my emails. Over the past couple of weeks, I had an ongoing conversation that I specifically needed to stay up to date on. I recognized by Thursday, that I had once again gone to a place of either looking at my phone to see if there were updates, or thinking about looking at my phone to see if there were any updates. This means that at no time was I actually engaged in what I was doing at that moment. Considering that I was using power tools, that may not be the safest thing to do. HAHA. I am still checking my email more often than in the past several months, but I feel I have a bit more control.

I am hoping that you do not read the above and say, “see Tom, why fight it. We have to look at our phones all the time! It is just the way it is in order to conduct business”. I am hoping that you read this and recognize that no path forward is going to be smooth all the time. There are always going to be moments when we will need to be flexible with our own rules to accomplish a task or stay up to date. When life happens and we are back to our old ways, we need a reminder.

Here is yours, and my own, reminder.

In our personal lives, in our business lives, we all set goals and then measure the success by the perfection of achieving those goals. I was not perfect with my engagement of my mobile device over the past 10 days or so. But I did not completely fall off the wagon either.

Perfection is not possible. Life is messy and unpredictable.

The best we can hope for is “Imperfect Perfection”. The idea that despite our best efforts, stuff happens, (you can replace the word “stuff” if you would like). Recognizing the imperfection of any goal is a way of helping ourselves, and those that we are charged with managing. Just because we request it, does not make it habit. We regularly ask ourselves and others to create a new habit, take on a new way of thinking, or buy into a new best practice. Then we ignore the reality that years or decades of learned behavior will creep in from time to time. It is natural to revert back to an old behavior. We just gently remind ourselves that it is fine. “Stuff” happens and we move back into the new behavior once more. We must also be mindful that our colleagues, children, direct reports, will also get off track from time to time. It is our responsibility to be present enough to recognize, care about, and be mindful enough to gently point out that they are off on a tangent. To be sure that this is not just a one sided approach, you correcting them, be sure to encourage your spouse, direct reports, kids, etc. to gently remind you when you have strayed from a new best practice. Dawn has taken to this role with great enthusiasm.

Look, most of us work and live with others. We set goals and rules to live by for ourselves and inevitably will stray off course. Do not stress if you do. Look to those around you to help. I am a very loud talker. I have a deep, strong voice. I have worked most of my life around loud environments that I had to speak over to be heard. I do not have an inside voice. Yet, I have asked Dawn to give me a little nudge, or an elbow to the ribs if she prefers, to remind me to bring the volume down to a reasonable decibel. It is better when we have others that we can turn to. It is better when team members hold each other accountable. They say that a goal is not really a goal unless you tell someone.

The exercise last week was an important one as we find ourselves in a world more and more engaged in our devices and less engaged and present with what is happening around us. If you found this exercise helpful, repeat it in small doses until it is just part of your day. Tell someone what you are doing. Perhaps you will be the one that makes an impact on another and they become more engaged. Imagine all the things that we miss in life and work because we are distracted.

Until next time,

May you be happy, healthy, safe, and a little bit more turned off to devices and little bit more turned on to your surroundings.


2 thoughts on “Imperfect Perfection

  1. I love that you say “Perfection is not possible”. Works places will say “No-one gets a 5.” Or “No-one achieves exceeded expectations.” Not sure why it’s really on there then :).

    Your trail photo reminds me of a nice bike trail in Peninsula, OH – where you can make a nice pit stop at a delicious market with roasted sweet corn right from their fields this season.


    1. Thank you Heather. You have great perception. I am very familiar with that farm and market. We go there annually for pumpkins as well as throughout the year for produce.


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