The goal is to always improve.
Today you should do better than yesterday. The project you’re working on now should be better than all your previous projects. The work you’re doing now should be better than the work you did last week.
This post should be better than the last one I wrote.
Improvement is expected. It’s assumed. The idea that we’re all going to constantly do better every time seems to be an inherent expectation of everyone, everywhere.
But what if you do something that’s not better?
That sounds horrible, I know. I’m living it. I am my own worst critic, but even I admit that my last post was really good.
And that’s a problem, because I don’t think this post is going to be better.
But you know what? That’s okay.
That’s okay?! What? How could that possibly be okay? What about constant improvement?
Woah, stay calm. Let me explain.
So this post might not be as good as the last one. Okay, what if it isn’t? What will happen? Will the last post be diminished in some way because this one is not quite as good? Does this post’s quality being a bit lower mean I didn’t learn and improve through practice by writing it? Does the drop in quality mean that I’ve lowered my standards and have decided to stop trying to be a better writer?
No, of course not.
Constant improvement as a goal is great. It drives us to challenge ourselves, to strive for what might be, to stretch ourselves as we reach a little further each time.
Constant improvement as a rule is damaging. The constant, relentless pressure to do better every single time is unrealistic and detrimental. That pressure, that fear of “what if I can’t do better this time?” is poison to productivity.
That fear almost paralyzed me into not writing anything today.
But I recognized that fear, that pressure, that big tangle of negativity masquerading as a useful goal. I confronted it, which was hard. I reasoned it away, which took time and effort. Then I wrote this post about it.
This post, which almost didn’t exist.
This post, which I’m glad to have written.
This post, which isn’t as good as the last one.