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Getting it right: Stifling our innate desire to experiment

Posted May 27 2010 3:10pm

“If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well.” Sounds good, but does the pressure to do something ‘right’ or ‘well’ stimulate us to experiment and grow?

As an invention, it doesn’t exactly qualify for a patent, but the energy and wit that inspired the tongue in cheek electric pencil in the photo is evidence of a willingness to think outside the box and take risks.

My own tendency toward perfectionism, coupled with persistent self-criticism, can be stifling. Maybe when Thomas Edison said “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 1,000 ways that won’t work,” he was really onto something.

Maybe a better saying would be “If it’s worth doing it’s worth screwing up.”

Psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel writes in one of his newsletters:

As children we start out with two positive energies. We love to experiment and make messes and we also love to get things right and feel that we’ve excelled at something. We might try to catch fly balls behind our back in practice—if we drop them, who cares? That’s our innate desire to experiment. In a crucial game, however, we want to catch the ball—and make a great catch while we’re at it. That’s our innate desire for excellence.

Many children begin to lose both desires. Because they are pressured to get things right they start to lose their taste for experimentation. Because much of what they do doesn’t rise to the level of excellence they begin to fear that excellence isn’t in them. Out of this dynamic arises a middle-of-the-road adult afraid to experiment and afraid to excel.

Excellence nevertheless remains a golden meaning opportunity for you! You can decide to do something really well. If you apply yourself and persevere, excellence is waiting. And how good it will feel!

Eric Maisel promises to help create a rich, satisfying life with his Meaning Solution

Photo: Electric Pencil by Rob Watling.

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