There’s a great story about the poet and teacher William Stafford. He’s recognized as one of the most prolific poets of recent times and during the last twenty or more years of his life he wrote at least one poem every day.
Yes… that’s one poem EVERY DAY!
And, much to the dismay of his poetry students at Lewis and Clark University, he assigned them the same “homework:” One poem a day for the entire semester!
I can just imagine the groans and complaints that followed that announcement. But when the students asked how it could be done, he replied simply, “Lower your standards.”
Perfection is one of the most effective abundance killers! I should know, I’m a recovering perfectionist and I can look back and see all of the times that I have let my desire to be “perfect” get in the way of abundance.
When perfectionism takes over, nothing you do or create can ever be good enough. And if you don’t believe that anything you do or create is good enough it’s going to be awfully difficult to feel excited about sharing what you do with others.
And isn’t that what abundance is all about? In order to receive abundantly, you MUST be willing to share abundantly. Perfectionism breaks that cycle before you can even begin sharing! Not a great way to start your journey to TRUE Abundance
When I first heard that story about William Stafford, many years ago, I thought he must have been crazy! “Lower my standards?”
The thought of lowering my standards flies in the very face of my beloved and comfortable perfectionism. If I’m going to put something out in the world it had better be perfect. And, as far as my inner perfectionist is concerned, nothing will ever be perfect!
But see, there’s a key component to Stafford’s assignment that my inner perfectionist doesn’t quite get. Stafford never told his students to publish a poem a day. He told them only to write a poem a day, which is exactly what he did.
I bet if we could see some of his daily poems – the ones that did not get published – we would agree that many of them, perhaps most, were not so good. Some of them were probably pretty crappy! And I’m sure he’d agree with us as well.
But when you write a poem a day, you’ve got a lot to choose from. And out of those daily poems he found enough good ones to publish more than 50 books, one of which – Traveling Through the Dark – won the National Book Award for poetry. He was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and held the post which is now called the Poet Laureate of the United States.
Clearly there’s something to this idea of “lowering your standards.”
Would you like to know how many “unfinished” essays, stories, newsletter articles, course outlines and book chapters I have stashed away on my hard drive? I bet you would! But I’m not going to tell you! Suffice it to say that by lowering my standards, not a whole heck of a lot, I’d have a lot more stuff out in the world.
And what if someone, just one person, happened to read one of those “extra” blog posts or newsletter articles? And what if that article was exactly the thing she needed to hear at that moment? What if lowering my standards helped to change her life for the better?
Is it worth it? Is it worth the risk that I might publish a crappy article every now and then? Is the possibility of being of service to more people worth lowering my standards? You bet it is!
And what about you? What “articles” do you have sitting on your hard drive? What creation of yours is waiting to see the light of day because it is not yet “perfect?” What if you lowered your standards? Just a tiny bit. Just enough to finish it and get it out into the world.
Here’s my hope and my challenge to you: Can you lower your standards? Just a bit? Can you look through your hard drive, or your closet or workshop? Can you dust off your chisels or brushes, get out your business plan or novel and reawaken your creative dreams? Can you lower your standards just enough to get those creations, those ideas, those dreams that are waiting inside of you, out into the light?
If you find yourself stuck in the process, wondering if it’s perfect enough, remember this line from the last poem William Stafford wrote on August 28, 1993, the day that he died:
“Be ready for what God sends.”
Indeed, be ready for what god sends, and be willing to let it come through you and out into the light.
I look forward to seeing more of your creations out in the world!