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  • Writer's pictureBreanna Aponte

Progress Not Perfection

At the age of 18 I was super ambitious. I had my whole life planned out and was determined to reach all of my goals. At the time I saw myself graduating from college, falling in love with my college boyfriend, getting married, starting a family and going from being a teacher to principal to college professor. Crazy right? That was my life dream.

But look at me now. My life has ended up being totally different but I love it. I didn’t know who I was at 18 or what I really wanted because I had so much more life to live. I needed to experience the world, try new things, learn some lessons and adjust as my journey changed.

Nothing about my journey has been perfect but I can definitely say that throughout it all, my goal has always been progression. As long as I’m growing, making progress to be a better me and do what I can to make a positive impact I’m good!

I used to be crushed when things didn’t end up how I imagined it would. Instead of going with the flow, learning myself and quickly adjusting or accepting something for what it was I would do everything in my power to get what I wanted when I wanted it and it ended up putting myself in even worse situations.

Since growing closer to God, I pay more attention to the things that happen in my life. I no longer force things. I examine the things happening around me and try my best to make choices that align with my values and God’s word. If that means being patient and having my plans change, so be it. I’d rather be patient and reap the reward in the end than to not receive the reward at all.

So learning to understand and trust the process and journey of your life is key. You have to let go of the perfect plan you created and instead trust God and focus on the progress that can be made when your perfect plans seem not to work.

Take advantage of the change and see how you can grow and progress even more with this new direction. How can what you’re dealing with right now help someone else in their life? What are you doing that you could be doing better? Maybe God’s trying to get your attention and there’s something else you should be focusing on first in order to continue on with your plan or a plan that could be even better.

It’s hard to trust something you don’t fully understand, and I get it. It took me a long while before I had true peace in my life even when things weren’t going my way. But I would think back to all the times that something bad happened and I didn’t understand how I would get out of it or fix it but somehow, it always worked out. And this isn’t just for me. Think about you and your past. How many times have you come back from a situation that felt hopeless? If you did it once, you could do it again!

Whether your working on bettering personal habits like myself, starting a business, gaining control of your anger, being a better parent, being a better girlfriend, wife or daughter, there’s something that you’re working towards and with that comes the unknown.

At this very moment you don’t know the end result but all you can do is have faith that it’s going to work out and you are going to be better because of it.

You might even be dealing with something heavier. The loss of a loved one, losing a job and not knowing where your next check will come from, getting divorced, failing at a business attempt, the list of bad things go on. But whatever you’re going through, it’s far from perfect or even ideal. But there is progress that will come from it.

You will learn yourself even better. Your faith will be tested and you will have to overcome something in the end will make you stronger.

You don’t have to be afraid to feel the emotions that come with what you're dealing with. If you’re sad, cry girl! If you’re mad, hit those pillows! If you want to be left alone, turn off that phone! It’s totally okay to have bad days! Have as many as you need then hop back on the horse and get back on track!

Your life has purpose and meaning! Only you can determine what that is. So even when it’s tough you have to keep going!

Nothing in life will ever be perfect. There’s no perfect time to start a business, get married, have kids or start a new hobby. The time for any of those things is when you decide it is! Sure you might fail at it, it may not end up exactly as you planned but I guarantee there will be a lesson at the end of the situation that makes going through it all worth it!

When I think of my life now, the closest thing to perfect is my relationship with Dre. I love that man soooooo much, I still pinch myself on a regular basis like this can’t be real life. But even this close to perfect relationship IS NOT PERFECT. Had I waited for the “perfect time” to date again, I would not be preparing to marry the love of my life. Had I put too much pressure on myself to be the girlfriend I thought Dre deserved, I would have never made the type of growth I have in our relationship.

I was FARRRR from perfect and timing wasn’t perfect either. But what I was, was honest. I was upfront about my shortcomings and the things that I knew I needed to work on. This not only made Dre respect me more, he was able to help hold me accountable and be supportive during my seasons of change and growth.

So whatever it is that you’re doing right now, remember it won’t be perfect but if you focus on making progress each and every day, you will reap all the rewards at the end.

No one wants you to be perfect. The beauty of being human is that we get to make mistakes and learn from them. So stop being afraid to fail because you WILL at some point fail. And when you do, you can welcome the life lesson with open arms knowing that the failure is 1 part of your precious journey towards getting to where you’re ultimately supposed to go.

Don't focus so much on perfection that you don't celebrate your progress.

Here’s my tips:

1. Take Small Steps and Ignore Big Drama

Perfectionism loves drama. You’ll start to notice that even before you’ve taken any steps toward fulfilling a dream, perfectionism will chime in with endless, berating questions.

Is my business idea even any good? How will I get it going? How am I going to manage dozens of people? What if I fail? What if I SUCCEED? I’ll probably ruin my family. Everyone will be jealous of me. I’ll lose friendships over this. Oh God, I’ll wind up divorced and alone for the rest of my life…

Don’t indulge in this drama-fest. Keep your head down and do the work. Take small steps. Baby steps, even. Do them daily. Show up to the class. Build the prototype. Write your pages. Run your miles. Send the survey. Deposit one dollar. Whatever your dream is, get obsessed with making simple, daily progress. That’s it.

You can scare yourself into stuck-ness by assuming you have to make radical life changes in order to make progress. You don’t. Real change is practically invisible as it’s happening. No trumpets sound. A marching band will not play at your door. Meaningful progress doesn’t feel particularly exciting. Most days, it feels like work. You show up, grind it out (sometimes joyfully, sometimes not), and repeat. So keep your eye on the prize: Take small steps daily and steer clear of big drama.

2. Plan Ahead For Problems

No matter how organized or motivated you are, things will knock you off track. From illness to technology fails to everyday interruptions, there will be loads of obstacles on your path.

Anticipating and solving for them in advance is the key to steady progress.

Ask yourself, “What potential problems could arise? What can I plan for in advance (even if it’s my own emotional toughness) to mitigate the negative impact of potential problems? What do I need to do now in order to keep making progress?”

3. Expect (and Embrace) Self-Doubt

Whether you’re getting in shape, working on your relationship, launching a new business or career, healing from your past, or just going after something new—expect self-doubt to at some point creep in.

Everyone experiences this self-doubt when moving beyond their comfort zone. This is a hallmark of progress, not a signal to stop.

Remember setbacks happen. They’re not “signs from the Universe” that you should quit. (Obviously, if you discover you genuinely don’t want to pursue this dream or goal anymore, then yes. Stop. Move on to something else.)

But if you’re feeling disheartened, take a breath. Remember that self-doubt is normal. No matter how successful or experienced you become, self-doubt never fully goes away. Instead of saying, What’s the point? ask yourself, What’s the next right move?

4. Ask: What’s the Next Right Move?

After a setback, ask yourself this question: “What’s the next right move here?” Listen for the answer. It may be as simple as “drink a glass of water.” Or “sleep on it.” Or “you need a glass of wine. Or a few glasses of wine.”

Sometimes the next right move is taking a break to gain a fresh perspective. Go for a run. Work out. Dance. Meditate. Take some space. Call a trusted, experienced, and supportive friend.

Or maybe when you ask yourself, “What’s the next right move here?” you’ll hear a response like, “That feedback stung, but there’s truth in it. Use that insight to get even better.” Or maybe you’ll hear, “Stop judging yourself and finish this darn thing.” Or perhaps, “Yes, we need to push our deadline back again. But we’re not quitting. Let’s refocus and keep going.”

When you ask yourself, “What’s the next right move?” you’re directing your brain and heart to search for a productive answer.

5. Use the Power of Positive Quitting

The old saying that quitters never win and winners never quit isn’t true. Sticking with something only because you’re afraid of looking like a loser is a terrible idea. When I decided to close my studio in Cleveland I knew people would think I was a failure but I knew why I was closing and I also knew that I wasn’t going to do something just for the sake of “looking like I succeeded”. Soon as I felt that I made a mistake, I corrected it no matter how it may have made me look to others.

There are times when you must be brave enough to cancel projects, goals, or relationships that no longer align with who you are or what you value.

Positive quitting is when you realize that you’ve gone as far as you possibly can. You’ve given it your very best effort and now it’s become clear—in your heart and soul—that the wisest and most productive next step is to cut your losses and move on.

6. Be patient

I know I say this a lot but it’s because it is so important.

You may be sitting there thinking “I’ve been trying for x amount of time to do such and long is it going to take?”

The answer: How ever long it needs to!

Before running my business full time, I worked 3-5 jobs and did any and everything I could to make money and save so that I could have the confidence and safety net I needed to commit to my business full time. People thought I was crazy but I knew what I wanted.

My dream of running my own business, on my own terms, doing exactly the kind of work that I do now, was so important that I was willing to do whatever it took, for as long as it took, to see it through.

Cultivate patience.

Don’t believe the myth that if you were a “real” (artist, performer, activist, scientist, entrepreneur, etc.) that you’d make a full-time living from your work. Perhaps it’ll happen someday. But that’s not always true, no matter how hard you work. There are countless creatives who are legitimate and admired who also supplement their income through a variety of unrelated means—teaching, seasonal work, service jobs, or rental income.

More importantly, there’s no shame in doing whatever it takes to keep a roof over your head. Never be embarrassed about doing honest work.

There are no shortcuts to getting to where you want to go.

If you’re not willing to work your butt off over an extended period of time (I’m talking years, not months), then be honest with yourself: that dream isn’t really that important to you. That’s okay. Drop it. Dig deeper. Find something you are willing to stick with and work for, no matter how long it takes.

Life doesn’t demand perfection. Life doesn’t require you to be constantly fearless, confident, or self-assured. Life simply requires that you keep showing up and continue to progress.

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