Recently this quote caught my eye:
Do the best you can until you know better, then, when you know better, do better.
– Maya Angelou
It truly gave me pause, made me stop and reflect upon it for a moment. These sixteen little words hold a tremendous amount of wisdom. The more I ponder upon them, the more beauty I see within them.
Most of us, I believe, are taught to do our best. But life is a learning process, and learning usually involves failing. Too often, however, we are criticized for our failures.
Our efforts, we are led to believe, mean little of themselves. It is only success that matters.
There is much to be said for P-E-R-S-E-V-E-R-A-N-C-E.
We’ve all grown up with adages, such as “If at first, you don’t succeed, then try, try again,” and reminders that “The only real failure is quitting.”
There is also much to be said, I think, in recognizing — and celebrating — our accomplishments along the way, even though they may be imperfect, even though they may fall short of the mark, far from our high hopes or the lofty expectations of others.
One place where I’ve seen the negative effects of the “You’re not doing it right” attitude is with students struggling to learn a language. Teachers are quick to grade, to point out errors, to grab a red pencil and mark every misplaced umlaut or accent mark. In doing so, they’re missing the real point.
Can the student communicate effectively?
A language student doesn’t need perfect grammar or correct spelling to convey needs such as “hunger” or ” thirst.” A few words will do. Just ask any toddler. Two year olds don’t have a perfect grasp of grammar, but they can certainly tell you what they want!
Many things in life are like that. Painting doesn’t require perfection. It requires a desire to express oneself through art. Writing doesn’t require perfection; it requires a love of language, a desire to share one’s thoughts. Dancing, perhaps? No. No perfection needed there, either. Just a feeling of joy at the sound of music, a delight at leaping, soaring, flying in whatever fashion feels good.
If we truly love what we do, of course, we’ll strive to improve. We’ll enjoy learning new ways, better ways. And when we know more, yes, then, we’ll do more, we’ll do better.
Our songs will be lovelier, our writing more thoughtful, our tour j’etes more graceful.
All in good time.
Let’s not allow our imperfections to rob us of pleasure. Let’s enjoy what we can do in this moment even as we look forward to learning, growing, and becoming better each day.
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As I pondered those beautiful words of Maya Angelou, I visited her official website:
She is a remarkable lady, an acclaimed writer, and an inspiration to all. Please take a moment to visit her site and browse through her books.