By Donna Lee Schillinger
One who is slack in her work is sister to one who destroys.
We just finished the 2nd Annual Ground Hog Day Experiment in which participants tried to live their perfect day. If you missed it, go now and join the Facebook group (Ground Hog Day Experiment); or if you’re not on Facebook, shoot me a blank e-mail with Ground Hog Day in the subject line and I’ll notify you when we gear up for Experiment #3.
The object of the experiment was to live your perfect day. Participants thoughtfully crafted a list of 10 things that, if all done in a day, would constitute their perfect day – not a fantasy day, but a day in which we behave like we know we should. The experiment is based on the Bill Murray movie “Ground Hog Day.” Next year, we’ll be giving out copies of the movie to participants in addition to great prizes, like Amazon.com gift certificates.
I’m happy to report that I nailed my perfect day – I did all 10 things on my list – but it took me 14 tries to get it right! I had several days that were honorable mentions, but I just couldn’t see perfection through to the end. If you feel pretty good about yourself, you might want to set the bar a little higher and challenge yourself to do more, better; the Ground Hog Day Experiment is a fun way to challenge yourself.
But don’t wait until next year to try to do your best. Why not try it tomorrow?
Start in the morning with making your bed the right way, you know, tucking the sheets in so tightly you could bounce a quarter off the bed. Now brush your teeth for two minutes using downward circles that massage the gums. Don’t forget to brush your tongue. Been a while since you flossed? If you want to do your best at cleaning your teeth, you have to floss. Apply the same diligence to showering, styling your hair, applying make-up and getting dressed (be sure your clothes aren’t wrinkled!). Now for a healthy breakfast of two eggs, a piece of whole-wheat toast and half of a grapefruit; that’s the ticket. I know you’re in a hurry, but if you’re giving your best effort today, you’ll need to wash and put away the dishes you used. Leave the kitchen spotless! It’s off to work or school now to apply this same diligent perfection to every task all day long – and today is just the first day of the rest of your life!
I’m exhausted just joking about doing our best in everything we do. Life goes at a pace such that it seems an impossibility to fully apply ourselves to the hundreds of tasks a day that present themselves, not to mention each personal interaction. The quest for perfection can easily morph into anal-retentive behavior – textbook neurosis for caring more about the details than the big picture.
Perfectionism can be a path to insanity, but that doesn’t mean we should ditch it completely. What’s needed is moderation. If we desire in our hearts to do our best at everything we do, we will give our available energy to each task. When our resources are exhausted, it’s time to let the rest go. Practically speaking, this might mean we can’t ever seem to keep our nails perfectly manicured. Or maybe alien life forms start to incubate in our shower before we get around to cleaning it. Maybe we throw our clothes in the dryer for five minutes to get the wrinkles out instead of ironing with starch. Maybe we skip a shower on Saturday! We need to cut ourselves some slack on things of little consequence, but when it comes to our relationships, especially with God, our work and studies, we should pursue perfection with abandon.
Though there aren’t enough hours in a day to do our best at everything all the time, there are two things that are quite doable and hold the secret to success. 1. Show up. 2. Finish. So simple, and yet, no joke. If we will commit to 1. Being present and 2. Completing what we start, we will stand head-and-shoulders above coworkers and peers and rise quickly to the head of our class, department, and division, and our relationships will flourish.
Showing up and finishing are still a long way from our best effort, but if we haven’t got these two down, which most people haven’t, this is where we need to start. Once we see the results we get from this basic commitment, we’ll be inspired to take our performance to a higher level, like showing up on time, well-prepared and injecting creativity into our endeavors.
Easily, I could give a hundred examples from my adult life of how showing up and finishing are exceptional. Here are two that randomly come to mind:
I enrolled in a sign language class. Eleven people started the class, three finished and only one attended every class. I entered the Peace Corps with a group of 75 carefully screened volunteers – all ready to take on a two-year commitment, come hell or high water. Fewer than 35 volunteers finished the two-year term to which we were all so committed at first.
Perhaps you think consistence in showing up and finishing is not as important as it was in the olden days. Possibly true for the culture at large; however, for bosses and teachers, commitment remains as important as ever. The more rare committed individuals become, the more impressive they will be to people in positions of authority. I would prefer to hire a highly reliable person over a highly talented person any day of the week. Finding both in the same person is like winning the lottery!
If we will show up and stick with each project we undertake until it’s done, we will soon find higher levels of privilege available to us – promotions, raises, honor societies and in relationships, greater trust and intimacy.
How does showing up and finishing apply to a relationship with our Father God? Each day, we need to show up for some one-on-one time with God. Set a time for coffee, tea or even some burning incense (God likes Frankincense) and soft music (chanting monks will work). Let’s speak to God daily and let God speak to us through the Word and other God-inspired materials. The finishing part depends on what we’ve started. If we started to read the Bible through, finish that. If we’ve committed to singing in an Easter choir program, finish that. If we give a tenth of our income to God, as we’re instructed to in His word, see that through to the end. The final finish in our relationships may be a long way off, so we must concentrate on showing up to listen and to share of ourselves while finishing all the smaller commitments we make within the relationship. God will reward us with rich blessings and constant care. It is so worth the effort.
Hold this thought: I’m doing my best to do my best!