Perfectionism: Why Records aren’t Being Broken, and my Blogs aren’t Being Written

They say time flies when you’re having fun. I used to change the quote to say “Time flies when you’re on a run,” Ha! my own pun on my love for running! But as of lately, I’ve been thinking that time doesn’t just fly on the run. Time flies, period. I cannot believe it is already 2012. I cannot believe I haven’t sat down to write any new posts since prior to NCAAs 🙁 I cannot believe I’m already 21(That’s scary to think I’m over halfway to 40!) Point being, if time was an animal, it would be a bird, because TIME FLIES. 

Recent painting I did of Shalane Flanagan

Time is great for two things, getting things done, and being used as an excuse for unfinished things. Sadly, the second of the latter often gets the best of us. For example, the last month or so I’ve been meaning to post another blog entry. I keep sitting here on my laptop, beginning to write about my experience running NCAAs; what I’ve learned from the race, and the season as a whole. Yet, somehow time escapes me every time, and I walk away hitting the sleep button of my laptop, only to return a few hours or day later and re-read what I’ve written and hit delete, and start over. 

Sitting here today, telling myself, “Ok Amanda, you said you’d start a blog, not a book, just write something down and hit “Publish.” Suddenly, “Poof!” an epiphany. Maybe its not time that gets the best of me, maybe its my perfectionist nature. After all, I already seem to have broken two major rules of blogging: #1 Don’t apologize or bring attention to the fact you haven’t posted any entries in a while and  #2 Keep it short and simple. Yet everytime I sit down to write I find myself being too picky about how it sounds, not even thinking about the fact that few people will even read what I write if I keep making my posts 2 pages. I think my blogging skills can be quite accurately compared to my artistic abilities. For me, doing a painting of Shalane Flanagan (above) while looking at a photograph is way easier than drawing a cartoon hippopotamus without any reference. I hate it when someone comes up to me saying, “Hey, you’re artistic. Will you draw me a hippopotamus?” My response, “How does being artistic make me know what a hippopotamus looks like without one right in front of me?” Perhaps part of that come from my lack of any sort of photographic memory. But really, when it comes to writing, drawing, painting and any other creative endeavor I partake in, I tend to take all the way until my deadline. Some call that procrastination, I call it perfectionism. Maybe its both. For me, I just never find myself completely satisfied with my work until the deadline comes and I just have to be finished. The problem here is, blogging is like drawing cartoons. It’s not meant to be a 10 page essay and doesn’t have to be perfect, and that bothers me. But you know what blogging and perfectionism really started reminding me of today?  Racing.

Fun Fact: A hippo could out-sprint Usain Bolt

I often hear followers of track and field complain that not a lot of records are being broken lately. People also complain that American distance running isn’t on top of the world like it could be.  While these statements in themselves are arguable, many people will answer them by throwing excuses like “the record holders used steroids,” “The latest training methods aren’t working”, or “the records simply can no longer get faster at some point.” My thoughts, as I sit here thinking about how my perfectionist nature often gets the best of me, made me realize it affects my racing just as much as everything else. I think the problem a lot of runners like myself face is going into a race with  that one “perfect” plan. Of course, we always have a back-up plan in case things go very different than we’d visualized, but do we try too hard to run a “perfect” race? It all comes back to the time factor. Records are simply times with a very important meaning behind them. However, racing these days has turned less into running the fastest time possible, and instead running to win, through the most precise timing, or “perfect” strategy and kick. We get so tied up in making the right move, at the right time. What if we didn’t think so much about, “What if I move early and get out-kicked by the whole field?” and started realizing that every race doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as we learn something from it.  I’ve realized that sometimes my best races, my best writing, my best paintings, come when I don’t put so much pressure on myself, pressure toward perfection. Instead, I don’t think too much, I follow the advice of Nike and, “Just do it.”

I believe perfectionism, not a ticking time clock, has held a lot of runners back from reaching their potential. That’s not to say that its bad to strive for success, but having a “win or its not worth it” attitude is a sign that perfectionism has taken you too far. On that note, I’ll leave you with one other thing that is often tarnished from a perfectionist’s attitude, that being, prayer life. If you’re like me, whether its something you say, write, read, run, or whatever you do, its got to be as close to perfect to make you feel good about it. That being said, prayers are not meant to be “perfect.” I think a lot of people like myself suffer from the, “I’ve got to sound good to God,” case. As I sit here and just type those words its incredible how clearly irrational such a thought is. Sounding “perfect” to God is simply impossible! Sometimes it takes a good look in the mirror to remember that every one of us is a sinner, and no matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect.  Only God is perfect. Just as Psalm 18:30 says, As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” That being said, its better to pray more often and more simply than less often and more “perfectly.” 
So as I sit here tonight and write this random collection of my thoughts, I’ve reached that point again where I debate whether to hit “Publish,” or decide to delete it all and follow the “Rules to a Perfect Blog,” and not submit this lengthy excuse for not writing a blog entry in several weeks, or better yet I can keep rearranging, editing, and pouring out more words until I feel satisfied my work is “perfect” enough for the World Wide Web. Perhaps at this point I should just be glad you haven’t deemed me as crazy and that you’re still reading this far. Perhaps perfectionism isn’t something you can even relate to. But either way, if there’s one thing I hope you get out of this is a sense of humility that people like me out there are sometimes lacking. Its time to stop worrying if what I write sounds perfect, if what I tell God in my prayers is worded “correctly” or whether my race turns out the best or not. As French painter Eugene Delacroix once said,The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing. Time is a funny thing, its always ticking no matter what you are doing. So as I sit here deciding whether or not I’m satisfied enough with what I’ve written, or as you sit there behind the leader in your next big race, waiting on edge for the perfect moment to make your move, or as you kneel beside your bed in silence, waiting for an impressive concoction of words to express to our dear Lord, remember that each second you wait, time has escaped you. Time is a reality, perfection is not. So what are you waiting for? Make your move, show the world what you can be. Time is like a bird, and if you worry too much about the perfect method to catching it, it will only fly away before you get your shot. 

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