Make Progress, Not Perfection

June 11, 2020
Reading time: 4 minutes
Motivation, Perfectionism, Potential, Purpose

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Back in 1995, wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone Park after years of absence due to hunting. A solution was needed to the host of ecological problems presented by a rising elk population. The elk was overgrazing the park to such a degree that various plant species were disappearing, and the park was at risk of desertification, among other things. Scientists and ecologists had quite a sizeable problem on their hands. How were they going to do this?

Wolves, of course. Not only would they theoretically be solving the elk problem, but they would also get the chance to observe what happens when a top predator is introduced into an ecosystem. This one small tweak could potentially provide them with very interesting research opportunities. And boy did it. The addition of the wolves changed the ecosystem so drastically that it is still being studying 25 years later. This seemingly small change set off a cascade of transformation that included less grazing by elk and the creation of rivers, a teeming population of beavers, and the return of certain trees. 

All of that, because 14 wolves were released into 3,500 square miles of wilderness.

Each change we make in our lives reverberates and creates change where we would—and could—never expect. The small positive changes we make ripple out into the world in equally unexpected ways. We aren’t able to see just how far-reaching even the slightest change we make can be, but that shouldn’t keep us from making them. We may never be aware of the positive ramifications these changes have out in the world but can track how they change us from the inside out. 

Change, by definition, means to make the form, nature, content, or future course of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. You have to be an active participant in change. Here are a few ways to get to work creating change in small, yet profound ways:

Start Small

Whether you are looking to switch careers, make a new commitment to your physical health, a transition to veganism, or climb Mount Kilimanjaro, set your vision and think small. What are some small changes you can make starting today that would be in support of your idea? At this point, there’s no such thing as too small. 

If you desire to leave your corporate job to start a small business, put together a list of small changes you can make and do at least one every day:

  • Start researching personal website platforms
  • Build a Pinterest board dedicated to the look and feel of your shop, the design of your product, the aesthetic of your brand
  • Start a budget and get a savings account in place
  • Take an online class that helps you in an area where you’ll need more expertise, such as Quickbooks, management, creative writing, or social media marketing.

 You have no idea how taking on even one of these changes can begin a ripple effect of positivity. The best part is that you don’t have to understand it, you just have to do it.

Mess Up 

Be willing to mess up and be open to your growth, looking or feeling erratic. Remember, we might to able to see the good that is being set in motion, and allowing our progress to look imperfect is vital. When we make a change, the path isn’t linear or neat. The scientists at Yellowstone knew what they were trying to achieve, but they had no idea how the progression of change would look. 

Using the example above, let’s say you apply one of the small changes on that list every day. In your mind, you see researching website platforms leading to building a website that will then lead to clients and customers. But maybe while researching, you find an online community that is geared toward visibility for entrepreneurs like yourself, and that becomes an avenue for success. The growth doesn’t have to look perfect or make sense. Most times, it won’t. 

Let go of how “it should” look and keep going. This leads to our next step…

Get Curious

In order to grow a tree, the first step is planting a seed. After that, we tend the seed and the soil, making sure it gets enough water and sunlight. As it grows, we adjust our care and watch as it goes through all the transitions of becoming a tree. However, once the seed is in the soil, the transformation has already begun. Your small changes are like planting seeds. Once they have been made, your transformation is already in progress. 

What keeps you tending the soil of your change is curiosity. Just like the scientists in Yellowstone, get curious about how your change is affecting your day-to-day life. You may find things you never thought would be related are changing for the better. For example, let’s say you open a savings account to begin planning for opening your own business. That same week you notice that you’re suddenly sleeping better and have more energy during the day. Because you have more energy, you’re able to wake an hour earlier to work on your vision. That’s the change in action!

Get a journal that is dedicated to tracking all the shifts that occur once you make your small changes and see for yourself.

As a self-professed Change Junkie, I am a big believer in small positive change. It’s the little changes that add up to monumental shifts in our lives. This takes a willingness to think small and to mess up and dedication to making progress, not being perfect. This, in and of itself, can bring about enormous change in your life right now, even if you aren’t working toward a specific vision. 

We are living in a time where everything around us is changing—from global systems and structures to the way we live our daily lives and what we believe. It can feel like change is constantly swirling around us. Being open to making progress, without needing to make sense or be organized, is a small change all its own. Saying yes to your personal transformation in times of uncertainty and fear is an act of courage and trust. And these small changes not only affect you but the entire world around you.

The wolves in Yellowstone didn’t do anything but show up. It was just their presence and their natural impulses and instincts that completely changed the land around them. 

You don’t have to be anything other than your authentic self—messy, erratic, imperfect—to create massive change for yourself and others. 


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