Learning versus looking perfect

I spoke with my friend Lynn about how she parents her son Evan. When Evan is taking time to do things on his own that she could easily do for him—like picking out clothes or unlocking a door—she chooses patience over intervention.

Lynn told me about a morning when Evan put his shoes on the wrong feet and slowly tied the laces. He pronounced himself ready for school. Lynn didn’t correct Evan, because he didn’t ask for her help. She believes he’ll learn best if he makes mistakes and learns from them at his own pace. This approach often exhausts and irritates her, so she made up a mantra:

“Him learning is more important than me looking perfect.”

In other words, when her son’s experiences don’t go as planned, Lynn doesn’t want to let self-judgment or the judgment of others rule her. Evan’s growth is more important.

I was struck by Lynn’s mantra. I will experiment with it when I have a son or daughter.

I was doubly struck when I realized I don’t need to wait for a son or daughter. I can use this mantra on myself by changing him to me:

“Me learning is more important than me looking perfect.”

When I allow myself to live by this version of Lynn’s mantra, my behavior changes in important ways. I am quicker to follow my interests, challenge myself with new ideas and activities, and ask for help where I need it. I think less about being criticized by myself or others and more about living in accord with my values and motivations.

I write this note hoping you will ask yourself, What’s more important—learning or looking perfect?

If you believe learning is more important, here are three more questions:

  • What are you hungry to learn?
  • Is a desire to look perfect getting in your way?
  • What will you change now that you know it?

Thank you for reading.


This is Max’s note—a weekly message from Lessonly’s CEO about learning, leadership, and doing Better Work. Sign up below to subscribe via email. No spam, we promise!

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