A few years ago when I lived in North Carolina, I often thought to myself how nice it would be to visit Asheville and hike in the mountains of western NC. It was only 3 hours away, and I knew I would love it. I dreamed about staying in a cozy little cottage, hiking Grandfather Mountain, exploring the local shops and restaurants, and breathing in the crisp air of the beautiful Blue Ridge.
I lived in North Carolina for a year and a half, or approximately 75 weekends of possibility.
But the one and only time I ever “visited” Asheville was when I blew through it at 65 mph on the highway, leaving NC indefinitely and heading to my new home in Arizona. I didn’t even stop.
If you’d asked me why I hadn’t gone, I could’ve quickly rattled off a laundry list of excuses. I didn’t have anyone to go with me. It was too expensive. I didn’t have someone to watch my dogs. I would have to rent a car. I was too busy with my lab research.
That’s a load of nonsense.
The real reason I wasn’t doing it, and the reason many of us don’t do things we want, is that I was waiting for the “perfect” time. I was waiting for the opportunity to fall into my lap.
The Myth of Perfect Timing had me firmly in its clutches. Subconsciously, I believed that if I just waited, the perfect opportunity would present itself. All I would have to do is simply say “yes” to this mystical opportunity; somehow all the stresses and the details would just take care of themselves if I waited long enough.
Making plans can be scary. Maybe you’ll overpay for a flight ticket. Maybe you’ll come back from our trip only to find out you missed out on some cool event or destination that we didn’t get to see. Maybe the weather will be bad. Maybe you’ll get a nasty cold.
Planning trips isn’t the only place the Myth of Perfect Timing rears its ugly head. If you’re anything like me, I bet you’ve had similar feelings way about lots of other things. “I don’t want to train for this race because I might not pick the right training plan, so I won’t pick any training plan.” “I can’t learn to rock climb because it’s too expensive.” “I don’t want to try a new nutrition plan because it will take too much time.”
Because there are so many ways we can do something imperfectly and there are so many ways for something to be hard, it’s easy to fall back into the sweet comfort of doing nothing. It’s easier to keep your grand plans tucked away in a fantasy world in your mind, safe from the messy realities and imperfections of life.
Instead, we take the “safe” path of doing nothing and let the status quo prevail. If you never take action, you don’t have to feel the pain of your plans not being perfect. Right?
In recent years, I’ve started to learn what an awful, joy-stealing trap that is.
Here’s the reality. When it comes to taking action, there’s virtually always going to be friction. There’s always going to be challenges, obstacles, and little (or big) stresses.
No one has ever come up to me and said, “I’ve taken care of all your work projects for the next week, I sorted out your vacation days with your boss, someone’s going to come by to fix the dishwasher and clean and paint the bathroom while you’re away, I’ve packed the perfect outfits for you, and oh by the way here’s $3000 for you to jet off to Hawaii. Have a great trip!”
I wish, right?
In other words, the problem with the Myth of Perfect Timing is simply that those “perfect” circumstances are almost never going to arise. I’ve learned that circumstances almost NEVER feel like the perfect time. Life is always busy. Money is always limited. There’s always something else you “should” be doing with that free time instead.
If I waited to feel like everything was falling into place, I’d probably only have done a tiny handful of cool things in my life.
Here’s the other big secret: some of the best experiences I’ve had came out of times when I ignored the limiting, discouraging messages of the Myth of Perfect Timing. It takes work to recognize those hesitations and negative beliefs for what they are, and to consciously decide to push past them. But in my experience, it’s been worth it every single time.
I’ve learned that I’d rather have an imperfect experience than no experience at all. I’ve learned that the times where I terrify myself with visions of how it’s going to crumble are usually wrong. In fact, the experiences that I worried would be “imperfect” have been some of the most beautifully memorable.
Learn to recognize the Myth of Perfect Timing for what it is: a myth. Live with more intention and purpose, be more bold in your pursuit of the things you really want to do. Next time you have an exciting idea and start worrying about how it’s not going to work, take a step back. Ask yourself if those concerns are really valid, or if your mind is just looking for a way back to its comfort zone.
Don’t let the fear of imperfect planning or the discomfort of temporary stresses dissuade you from seeking experiences that will bring you fulfillment and joy.
Pic 1: Blue Pools, Haast, New Zealand.
Pic 2: Pipe Creek Beach, bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Pic 3: The Narrows, Zion National Park.
All three are amazing experiences that the Myth of Perfect Timing almost kept me from having.
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