Monday, February 10, 2014

You Do It Wrong

Several years ago I decided to take a beginning Tai Chi Class at a local church.  The class was free and gave me something fun to do with friends on a Tuesday night.  The Tai Chi instructor, Mrs. Wang appeared to be a sweet middle aged Chinese woman.  At the beginning of the class she lined up “the regulars” at the front of the class and the newbies in the back of the class.  The newbies were instructed to follow those in front.   Mrs. Wang starts the music on her portable tape player and begins the Tai Chi movements.  I along with other newbies start following along.  Suddenly the music stops like we are playing a game of musical chairs and Mrs. Wang walks very quickly to the back of the room.  She glares at us newbies and screams “you do it wrong” and then marches back to the front of the class and re-starts the music.  Within a minute the music stops and Mrs. Wang makes her way to the back of the room and “you do it wrong” comes flying at us again.  Mrs. Wang marches back up front and within a minute the whole “you do it wrong” starts again.  By the sixth time I was finished.  I left the lineup and sat down to put my shoes on.  Mrs. Wang stops the music comes to where I am and says “you do it wrong” and as I try to explain to her that I don’t know how to “do it” her face softened with confusion.

I am not a fan of the word “wrong” because it comes from a place of judgment and judgments have roots in perfectionism.  Now, I am not talking about morality issues because there are some actions that are wrong.  Nope, I am talking about “the wrongs” we perceive in our everyday lives.  You can always spot a perfectionist because they use “right” and “wrong” language and they try to bend everyone to their way of thinking.  For the perfectionist there is only black and white with no shades of gray.  Mrs. Wang was a perfectionist with unreasonable expectations.  Expectations is the kissing cousin of perfectionism.

Now I would like for you to understand that if Mrs. Wang had been screaming “you do it right” I would have had the same reaction.  I am not a fan of the word “right” either because it too comes from a place of judgment with scattered roots in perfectionism and expectations.

Now here is the rub, perfectionism, expectations and right or wrong thinking kills creativity.  Creativity must contain options for growth and expansion.  So if you are trying to create the perfect business or the perfect dance or the perfect sketch or the perfect poem you will fail before you even start.   Because I know as a creativity coach most perfectionist won’t even be able to start because of fear.  Fear it won’t be perfect, fear it will be wrong, fear of failure.  At the end of the day perfectionism and expectations rob us of our joy.

As for Mrs. Wang she was asked not to lead anymore Tai Chi classes.  I find that incredibly sad because she did have a passion for Tai Chi.  You could see the joy on her face for a few seconds before she stopped the music.  Her drive for perfectionism and high expectations of others took her Tai Chi teaching away.

P.S. this blog post is not perfect and that is OK!

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