Progress, Not Perfection

December 3, 2019

One of my biggest challenges as a writer is starting a story. Beginnings are hard, whether we’re writing a news story, learning a language, entering a new relationship, starting a new job, joining a new church or any number of beginnings we encounter throughout life.

Despite their challenge, however, beginnings also offer opportunity. From a writer’s perspective, a blank page is full of potential; no restrictions save the size of the page. This is why taking a writer into the journal section of a bookstore can be dangerous; the enormous amount of potential nestled on those shelves can make us forget the reality of our bank accounts!

When writing, once I finally get words on the page, I push myself to just keep writing. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s progress, and I can evaluate its value later. It’s much easier to tweak a few things than it is to start over; I just have to start in the first place. Similarly, the key to a fresh start in a new year is to just do something.

Every January, I make a short list of things I want to improve over the next 12 months. Past years have included Read more books; pray more often; commit to fewer responsibilities; be gentler with my children; eat more vegetables. The point is to take action right away. I can always edit as I go; it’s easier to tweak here and there than it is to start over.

At the end of every year, I review the past 12 months. What went well? What added stress to me, my family or my relationships? What brought me closer to being the person I want to be? How did I show Christ to others?

There are always mistakes to cringe at, choices to question, behavior to regret. But I’ve come to appreciate new beginnings--especially those in the past. Looking back, I can see the changes I made, and even if they weren’t perfect, they were progress.

Unlike my writing, I can’t go back and change things in my life before anyone sees them, but I can edit my trajectory. Just a little nudge here, a tiny tweak there, and I’m headed in a new, and hopefully better, direction.

This month we enter two new chapters at once, entering both a new year and a new decade. And a lot can happen in 10 years. In my own life, the last decade has held three major moves, six different homes in four states, two additions to our family (and a miscarriage), a major shift in my career, countless new friends, and one iPhone dropped in the toilet. (I learn from my mistakes—it only happened once!)

Take some time to review the past 12 months and the past 10 years. What brought you joy? What was harmful? What gave you a clearer picture of God? What hid Him from you? What made you a better person? What dragged you backward into old habits?

Then, like a writer in the journal section of a bookstore, allow yourself to be still for a moment and soak up the enormous potential before you. And honestly, there are no restrictions, save the size of your determination.

By Becky St. Clair. St. Clair is a freelance writer and lives in the Napa Valley area of California with her husband, Jason, and their three children, Kayla, Lizzy and Gabe.