I was recently browsing in one of my favorite little boutique gift shops and admiring all the trendy sunglasses, beautiful handcrafted jewelry, quirky coffee mugs, and more that I would NOT be buying that day. Believe me, I wanted to. And I was so close to pulling out my wallet for a pair of red sunglasses that would have made me feel like a classy black-and-white film actress on par with the likes of Audrey Hepburn.
But I didn’t.
Why? Because this funny little voice in my head kept repeating the same two words over and over like ticker tape: responsible adult…responsible adult…responsible adult.
Individually, those words are harmless. Together however, they feel like a mega wet blanket on my life. In my world, responsible “adulting” usually means having to park my wants and desires for the “joys” of HOA annual fees, flood insurance, roto-rooting the main pipe of our home to clear out all the so-called flushable wipes, buying a new car battery…and the list goes on. When all is said and done, there’s little left for the personal taking.
To add insult to personal pedicure injury, earlier this year my husband and I made a decision to really clamp down on our budget and spending because we’ve got some big changes coming and in order to be prepared, we’ve need to start making some cuts. And while a $20 pair of sunglasses doesn’t seem like a big deal—and frankly, probably not a budget buster—it was the principle of the matter that…well…mattered.
Can I follow through on my commitments? Do I have the willpower to say “no”? Am I able to make sacrifices now and put a hold on my need for immediate gratification, knowing that eventually I will reap the benefit of my decision?
I silently grumbled to myself as I made my way out of the store, but not before I saw a little wooden sign that read: Progress, not perfection.
Man, how I needed that. I also saw a sign that read: Children are often spoiled because no one will spank Grandma. But I digress.
That day, I needed a reminder that my life goals should not be aimed at perfection. As a human being, it’s literally impossible to be perfect. I am guaranteed to make mistakes. What’s worse…the more I strive to be perfect, the more hyper aware I am of my failings.
Progress instead pushes me to be better, but offers grace when I hit just shy of the mark. Progress says, “you got this,” while perfection says, “don’t screw up.”
Do you see the difference? One offers hope and encouragement, while the other demands that anything less than your best will result in an unacceptable outcome. Placing ourselves under the pressure of perfection and its unrealistic goals is detrimental to our wellbeing.
My life goals should be measured by my progress. The way I budget, what I eat, how I parent…everything. Am I doing better than I was yesterday? If not, what changes can I make? How can I improve?
I may have walked out of the store without a pair of sunglasses, but it was a huge victory in my progress toward responsible spending and an even better reminder that I’m moving in a positive direction with every daily decision I make—most especially, the small ones.
But don’t fear my friends. When we reach our financial goals, you can bet I’ll be headed back to that store to buy a pair of shades in every color they offer. Why? Because I want to be fiercer than Hepburn (okay, that may be a perfection goal). But seriously, and more realistically, because there’s a 99 percent chance that one or all may get broken, lost or dropped in a toilet—and because progress deserves to be celebrated—sunglasses and all.